2021 Music Prize

David Risberg

Jury motivation: ”Utilising his young, beautiful, natural, lyrical barytone, David brings forth his musical interpretations with good diction, mastery of the basic techniques, and in a way that makes the challenging seem simple.”

About David Risberg

David Risberg received an undergraduate degree from The University College of Opera in Stockholm in 2021. That same summer he sang in the opera Argenore at Confidencen. He has also been hired regularly as a concert singer. In the autumn of 2020, David was an intern at the Royal Swedish Opera and studied the role of the Crow in Benajmin Staern’s opera the Snow Queen, a role which also led to is debut at the Royal Swedish Opera that same season.

Without music, we become empty souls

Music is a basic human need, which lends soul and meaning to life. But when education and support for the arts are defunded, the possibilities for a rich and thriving arts sector are undermined, says opera singer and 2021 Mogren Music Prize awardee David Risberg.

“Music will always have a place in people’s lives. What else would be our reason for existing? Without art and music, we would become a bunch of poor, empty souls without any hope for the future,” says David Risberg.

Like Håkan Mogren, David Risberg holds a strong belief in the value of music and its ability to imbue society and people with spirit.

“I am not fond of the argument that we need music because it will lead to a better health outcome or because children will be more proficient in mathematics. Music is so much more than that. People have an innate drive to create and listen to music and that will never go away.”

In David’s childhood home, music was ever present. Both of his parents are church musicians. When he was fifteen, he found a booklet with the British composer Peter Warlock’s music among his parents’ sheet music, and that is where the dream of becoming an opera singer was born.

“My parents’ reaction was “Oh dear Lord, don’t do it”. They knew exactly what I would be putting myself through as an opera singer. But they also quickly realised that I was bonkers enough to dedicate myself to this. You have to be a nerd to do opera," David says.

After his studies at Vadstena Folk High School and the Stockholm University of the Arts, David made his debut at the Royal Swedish Opera in 2020, as the Crow in Benjamin Staern’s opera The Snow Queen. Since then, his clear, sonorous baritone has graced most of Swedish opera houses.

“When I’m on stage, I often think “David, why are you doing this to yourself?”. But when I’m actually on stage, it’s so much fun – hard to beat, really. In my best moments I feel invincible. It’s like those two hours never happened at all.”

Fading political interest

Leaving the safe space of education for an industry dominated by short-term employment, plenty of travel, and lots of alone time has been simultaneously challenging and educational. Stipends like the Mogren Prize have been very important, both in terms of personal finances and confidence.

“Initiatives such as the Mogren Prize are hugely important for the survival of the arts. In Sweden, we have a tradition that cultural life should be supported by state funding, but the interest from politicians have faded. Stipends and grants have become very significant for musicians to have the courage to enter an industry with very little employment security.”

In the past year, he has spent much of his time in his former student town Vadstena, where he performed in the opera The Factory of Spirits. Much to his dismay, the popular music programme at Vadstena Folk High School is threatened with closure.

“Without good musical education, more musicians will choose to move abroad and leave Sweden devoid of talent. For arts and music to develop further, there must be the opportunity for a deeper understanding and development.”

David is looking forward to becoming an educator one day – but first there are many dream roles he wants to perform, with Verdi’s Rigoletto being top of the list.

“The goal is to become as good as I can possibly get. To sing the roles I choose and to do them as well as I possibly can. I like to compare myself to a 100-metre sprinter who wants to finish in under ten seconds. Performing Rigoletto in my vocal range would be a dream, simply because it is so challenging."