Opera star Cecilia Bartoli and songwriter Max Martin have been announced as the 2016 winners of the Polar Prize. The prestigious award is Sweden’s biggest music prize celebrating the power and importance of music and was initiated by ABBA manager, lyricist and publisher Stig Anderson in 1989. The prize embraces music in all its forms and usually brings together winners from contrasting musical worlds. Previous pairs have been as disparate as B.B. King and György Ligeti in 2004 and Valery Gergiev and Led Zeppelin in 2006.

Italian mezzo-soprano Bartoli is well known for her recordings of Mozart, Rossini and Gluck and is devoted to early 19th-century music, particularly Italian Romanticism and the works of bel canto composers, as well as music from the 17th and 18th centuries. She is an incredibly prolific recording artist and her audio and video releases have sold more than 10 million copies. “What a fantastic surprise,” said Bartoli on hearing of her award. “I feel deeply honoured because this amazing prize is all about a passion for good music without boundaries.”

Songwriter Martin Sandberg, who was born in Stockholm and writes under the name of Max Martin, has written hit songs for artists such as Katy Perry, Pink, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and the Backstreet Boys. Martin said, “If you can somehow influence popular culture, shape it in some way, when something becomes bigger than just a song, that’s the greatest thing for me… this is what I love about music. You can reach so many people.”

The award includes 1 million Kronor (almost $170,000 Australian Dollars) and will be presented at a ceremony in Stockholm in June. Bartoli and Martin join a distinguished list of predecessors including Chuck Berry, Kaija Saariaho, Bob Dylan and Pierre Boulez.

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