Léonie Sonning Awards 1988

Peter Schreier

The German tenor Peter Schreier received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 200,000 at 7.30pm on Monday, 30 May 1988 at The Royal Theatre (Main Stage) after a performance of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, where – in the presence of Queen Margrethe – he sang the part of Don Ottavio.

The music prize was presented on stage immediately after the conclusion of the performance by Professor Poul Birkelund, who in his speech said: "As ‘Don Ottavio’ we have today been touched by Peter Schreier’s recreation of the spirit of Mozart, vocally and in terms of expression, based on a noble tradition that has been passed on for centuries. Since you came into contact with music in your childhood, you have been able to listen to and sense the great richness of culture in your native country. Throughout your life you have developed a divine voice with deep intelligence and awareness of a great musical heritage. People all over the world who have listened to you cherish with gratitude your musical performances."

The programme

Mozart: Don Giovanni

Performed by:

Don Ottavio: Peter Schreier
Don Giovanni: Mikael Melbye
Leporello: Sten Byriel
Donna Anna: Eva Johansson
Donna Elvira: Tina Kiberg
The Commendatore: Christian Christiansen

The Royal Danish Orchestra
Conductor: Tadeusz Wojciechowski


The Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 200,000 is hereby awarded to the singer Peter Schreier in admiration of a many-sided and artistically versatile musical career that continues a fine classical tradition coupled with a rare ability for empathy and interpretation of the human message in texts and music.

Peter Schreier and Denmark

In the 1980s, music audiences in Copenhagen were able to experience Peter Schreier live on two occasions prior to his receiving of the Sonning Music Prize. At a Lieder evening in Tivoli Concert Hall he sang Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin (1982), and four years later he gave another concert in Tivoli Concert Hall with a programme  devoted exclusively to arias from Mozart operas, in the roles that he very much had made his own: Belmonte (Seraglio), Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni) and Ferrando (Cosi fan Tutte).

After receiving the prize, Peter Schreier spent the fee from The Royal Theatre and some of the large amount of prize money to buy really good wind instruments for musicians in East Germany.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification in 1989-90 led to more frequent visits from the German tenor: In June 1990 he sang again in Tivoli Concert Hall – An die ferne Geliebte by Beethoven, Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Schumann’s Dichterliebe, later he came with his speciality as conductor and evangelist in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and St. John’s Passion (together with Sokkelund Sangkor). In 1999 he had the same function at a Thursday’s concert and in Ribe Cathedral, and in April 2002 he conducted and sang once more with The National Danish Symphony Orchestra – a Brandenburg Concerto and two cantatas by Bach.

Selected Music by Peter Schreier

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"The atmosphere was something special at The Royal Theatre yesterday. The presence of the famous German tenor Peter Schreier caused a buzz of excitement and expectation. And, as it turned out, the aura of cordiality for which he is known as a singer in, for example, Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin is the same as when one speaks to him [...]"

(Jørgen Falck, Politiken, 31 May 1988)

"Schreier [...] is no great fan of present-day, hypermodern stagings of opera. On Monday evening he performed in one of them, the staging by The Royal Theatre of ‘Don Giovanni’, which he passed over in polite silence [...] He reproaches modern producers of not taking the possibilities and limitations of the human voice into account. It affects the sound quality when the singers are chased round the stage at a breath-taking tempo. When things are turned upside-down to that extent, the original – i.e. the music and the singing – suffers."

(RB, Information, 31 May 1988)