2024 Music Prize

Opera singer from Swedish north wins a quarter million SEK

The Mogren Music Prize 2024 is awarded to the 29 year old bass-baritone Kristoffer Töyrä. The prize sum, SEK 250,000, is awarded for an exceptional voice as well as a purposeful expression and a musical style that the jury believes can lead to a successful international career.

“A strong cultural life is so important, both in terms of well-being and for the unique spaces it creates, where different thoughts and feelings can meet. Kristoffer has, with playfulness, curiosity and drive, managed to go from successful choir singer to a promising soloist, both in Sweden and internationally,” says Birgitta Svendén, convener of the Mogren Foundation’s nominating committee for music as well as former CEO of the Royal Swedish Opera.

“My sense of playfulness has led me to become an opera singer. When I grew up, there were few opportunities to explore the arts. But in my family, we invented music games almost daily, and that contributed to decades of education. All children should have that opportunity, regardless of where they live or what family they belong to.”

Kristoffer Töyrä

Jury motivation

“Kristoffer Töyrä has remarkable voice resources, a purposeful expression and musical sense of style. There is bravery and playful simplicity in his development and as a young, promising bass-baritone, he possesses all the makings of becoming a grand asset at the national and international opera scene.”

How childhood play brought Kristoffer to the opera house

Prior to being hired in the Gothenburg opera choir, Kristoffer Töyrä had never seen an opera house from the inside. During his childhood, he had a hard time getting music lessons near his home in northern Sweden – there was a lack of teachers and not much to pick from. Instead, play led him to a career as a professional bass-baritone.

“I’ve sort of always been singing, but only for fun. My mother and grandfather invented various music games, sang canon, and played with words. We were just having fun, but it turned into decades of musical schooling without us thinking of it as such.”

Kristoffer Töyrä grew up in Gammelstad in Luleå. His mother was a graphic designer and his father an electrician. He had not discovered classical music yet, it was just pop and folk music. Exploring culture in Luleå in the 1990s was generally difficult, he says.

“In fourth grade, I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, but there was only one guitar teacher and he was fully booked. Instead I got help from my friends. Since I didn’t have lessons, I played with the guitar all the time. I wanted to learn how to play!”

From guitarist to opera singer

In seventh grade, Kristoffer played in a band and later applied to high school, focusing his studies on music, in particular the guitar. There he met a teacher that challenged him in a completely new genre.

“One day, my singing teacher asked me if I would sing some classical music. I thought it sounded really weird, but I said yes, mostly because she had asked. I was completely hooked and decided to continue for as long as it was still fun, and I haven’t stopped since.”

After high school, he enrolled in Framnäs Folk High School. During those two years, he considered his career choices.

“When I later attended the music school, I realised there was nothing else I’d rather be doing than this. I still feel that way today.”

Authorised to play at work

During his studies, Kristoffer was hired in the choir at the Gothenburg Opera, where he still works. It turned out to be a place with room for play.

“As a choir, we have to convey various emotions as requested by the director, and that means we have to experiment and, well, play. It’s almost more fun to create the product than to showcase it.”

The soloist roles are growing in number. Kristoffer Töyrä finds a particular joy in creating and bringing to life a role in just the way he has envisioned.

“I love being a soloist. The musical freedom you get from standing there alone with an orchestra, in combination with the conductor and I agreeing on how we want it to be. That’s amazing!”

First Gothenburg, then the world

“I remember when I stepped on to the big stage at the Gothenburg Opera for the first time – I’d never been to an opera house. Suddenly, I was in a concert hall with balconies that can house 1,400 people! That was a very exciting feeling.”

The goal is to sing in different corners of the world, work with extraordinary musicians – and to create!

“For now, this is the only place I have been and I don’t really know what the rest of the world looks like. The entire point is to continue creating and do things, but I am not sure exactly what,” says Kristoffer.

After long having learned through the play, there are many roles he would like to spend time learning in the future.

“I’m very fond of Don Giovanni. I just had the honour of performing as a cover for Commendatore at the Gothenburg Opera. I’d love to learn Leporello. Banquo in Macbeth would also be fun to play with to see what I can make with it.”

Dare to choose the music

It can be hard to even imagine becoming a professional musician when there are none present close by or when music lessons are not available. To have the basics is important, according to Kristoffer.

“No matter what, do it anyway. That’s what I did. It is absolutely possible to work professionally with music, if that’s what you desire.”

Society can also do more. He is a strong believer of more playing in schools.

“Play with maths, play with music, play with it all. If we can infuse learning with fun, knowledge will stick better, you’ll do more of it and can become very good at it. I keep returning to fun and games! I think it’s good.”

About Kristoffer Töyrä

Kristoffer Töyrä was born in 1995 in Luleå and sings a bass-baritone. He began his education as a singer at Framnäs Folk High School and went on to receive an undergraduate degree in classical singing at the School of Music in Piteå.

Since 2019, Kristoffer Töyrä works as a singer in the Gothenburg Choir. In Gothenburg he has also performed as Il Commendantore in Don Giovanni, Colline in La Boheme, the Innkeeper in Selma Lagerlöf’s The Treasure, and Wilhelm in Hoffman’s Adventures.

Kristoffer has been the oratorio soloist in Händel’s Messiah in Piteå and has performed solo in several concerts, in among other places, the Gothenburg Cathedral. He also has vast experience as a choir singer in Arctic Male Voices, Erik Westerberg’s vocal ensemble, the Swedish Youth Choir as well as the Piteå School of Music Master Choir and chamber choir.

Kristoffer Töyrä in the media

Opera Wire

"Kristoffer Töyrä Wins The 2024 Mogren Music Prize"

Opera World

"Northern Sweden's Rising Star: Kristoffer Töyrä Wins Prestigious Mogren Music Prize 2024"