Queen Sonja International Music Competition

The Queen Sonja International Music Competition is a music competition for young singers taking place every two years in Oslo, Norway. The competition was arranged for the first time in 1988. Participants are selected by a screening committee on the basis of recordings submitted in the application process. 40 singers are invited to the competition in Oslo. The competition programme includes preliminary rounds, a semi-final and final, as well as masterclasses, career development sessions, concerts and social events.


The Queen Sonja International Music Competition was founded in 1988. Among the initiators was Mariss Jansons, former music director and principal conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. At the time, the Norwegian classical music scene was experiencing a period of increasing internationalization. The aim of the competition was to create an international arena for music in Norway, which could present young musicians, give Norwegian soloists an opportunity to be assessed at an international level, and attract greater international focus on the Norwegian classical music scene.

The competition was created as a joint project between several leading Norwegian music institutions, including the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Norwegian Academy of Music, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK), the Lindeman Foundation and the Norwegian Society for Soloists.

The first two competitions in 1988 and 1992 were organized for pianists. Marking the centenary of the birth of Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad in 1995, the competition has since then been arranged for singers. Until 2007, national competitions were arranged prior to the international competition. The competition is currently arranged every two years in cooperation with the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, the Norwegian Academy of Music, the Oslo National Academy of the Arts and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. The competition usually receives between 250-350 applications from singers from around the world. The invited singers are usually newly graduated singers who are ready to embark on their international careers.

The competition is a platform for providing career opportunities for young singers and acts as a stepping-stone to the professional music world for the participants. Previous prize-winners can document rapid career development and international recognition. Previous prize-winners include, among others, Argentinian soprano Virginia Tola (1999), Norwegian soprano Marita Kvarving Sølberg (2001), German tenor Daniel Behle (2005), Russian soprano Olga Mykytenko (2003), Canadian soprano Maesha Brueggergosman (2001), Norwegian baritone Audun Iversen (2007) and Norwegian soprano Lise Davidsen (2015).


The Queen Sonja International Music Competition is organised as a non-profit foundation headed by the Board of Directors. A Council consisting of representatives from the founding institutions acts as a consultative body for the board. Current Board members are Einar Solbu (Chair), Birger Magnus, Mary Miller, Ingrid Stange and Randi Stene.

The Council currently consists of Peter Tornquist (Dean, The Norwegian Academy of Music), Toril Carlsen (National Federation of Norwegian Musical Soloists), Arild Erikstad (NRK), Tore Dingstad (Dean, Oslo National Academy of the Arts), Geir Bergkastet (The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet), Ingrid Røynesdal (director, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra), and Frederik Zimmer (The Lindeman Foundation).


1st prize: €50 000

2nd prize: €10 000

3rd prize: €5 000

Finalist prizes: €1 500

Prize for the best performance of Lied: €1 500

The Ingrid Bjoner Scholarship (awarded to the best Norwegian competitor): NOK 100 000

In addition, prize-winners receive engagements with Norwegian orchestras and opera companies.


The Queen Sonja International Music Competition’s main contributors are the Norwegian Ministry of Culture and the City of Oslo. The competition also receives private funding from Canica AS, Lucy Høegh Foundation, Sat Sapienti, Anders Sveaas’ Almennyttige Fond and Lindemans Legat.

Collaborating Opera Academies

The Queen Sonja International Music Competition collaborates with leading opera academies in Europe and the US. The collaborating academies nominate up to three of their best singers to the competition. These singers are admitted directly to the preliminary rounds of the competition in Oslo and do not have to go through the regular application procedure.

The collaborating opera academies are:

Jette Parker Young Artists Programme, Royal Opera House, London

Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, Metropolitan Opera, New York

The Opera Studio, Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich

Internationales Operastudio, Opernhaus Zürich, Zürich

Young Artists Opera Programme, Bolshoi Opera, Moscow

International Opera Studio, Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin

Teatro alla Scala Academy Young Artist Program, Teatro alla Scala, Milan


The jury of the Queen Sonja International Music Competition consists of leading figures in the opera world. The jury usually has seven members and includes both professional opera singers and opera directors from around the world. After the preliminary rounds each jury member votes for 12 contestants to proceed to the semi-final. After the semi-final the jury members vote for six candidates who proceed to the final. After the final each jury member ranks the finalists from 1 to 6. The finalist with the lowest number is the competition’s 1st prize winner. Each jury member submits his or her votes in writing, without revealing them to the other jury members. The jury’s verdict is final.

Jury 2019

  • Annilese Miskimmon, Ireland/UK, Director of Opera at the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet in Oslo
  • Stefan Herheim, Norway, opera director
  • Sumi Jo, South Korea, soprano
  • Tatjana Kandel, Denmark, Head of Artistic Planning for the DR Ensembles at the Danish National Symphony Orchestra & Ensembles in Copenhagen
  • Robert Körner, Germany, Director of Artistic Production at Opéra National de Lyon
  • Sergei Leiferkus, Russia, baritone
  • Diane Zola, USA, Assistant General Manager, Artistic at the Metropolitan Opera in New York