“Listening to music and wanting to produce it yourself is part of human nature. You can nurture it – and you have to nurture it!” With these words Reinhard Mohn, founder of Bertelsmann Stiftung, firmly established the promotion of music as one of the foundation’s central themes and decided to expand the foundation’s role to emphasize its commitment to the arts. But this plan actually came to fruition through the initiative of his wife, Liz Mohn. Following a conversation with Herbert von Karajan on the shortage of talented young opera singers, and based on a conceptual idea presented to her by August Everding, General Director of the Bavarian State Theaters, Liz Mohn launched the “NEUE STIMMEN European Singing Contest.”

The first singing contest was held on October 23 and 24, 1987, at the Stadthalle in Gütersloh, in cooperation with the directors' group of the Deutsche Bühnenverein, the German Theatre and Orchestra Association. Performing before a jury chaired by Everding, who continued to fill this role until the competition in 1997, the French contralto Nathalie Stutzmann took first prize.


In 2012 Bertelsmann Stiftung is celebrating the 25-year anniversary of NEUE STIMMEN. The event is truly a reason to celebrate and to look back upon a highly successful singing competition of international acclaim. What started as a European singing contest with 28 participants has continuously evolved into a competition with preliminary auditions held in over 20 locations around the globe and with 1,400 candidates applying in the year 2011 from all parts of the world – demonstrating the tremendous success of the project and its organization.

The success of the competition has led to the development of further NEUE STIMMEN modules. In 1997 the first Master Class was offered with the aim of nurturing individual contest participants; since 1998, the class has been held in alternating years between the competitions. Today, NEUE STIMMEN promotes young talent through consultation and coaching related to the singing profession, concert performances in Germany and abroad, and a Lied Master Class launched in 2012 to mark the anniversary of the competition. The objective of NEUE STIMMEN is not only to provide young vocalists with comprehensive advanced music training, but also to convey key competencies and perspectives for a career that is as successful as it is circumspect. Up to now, the participants in all of the modules have been recruited from the competition.

Constantly pursuing the basic principle of promoting the highest artistic quality while simultaneously fostering equal intercultural exchange, NEUE STIMMEN continues its key mission of tracking down the most promising opera talent from all over the world, nurturing this talent and carefully preparing it for a successful career on an international level.

The international reputation and scope of NEUE STIMMEN is a major contributing factor in Bertelsmann Stiftung’s principal position as a patron and facilitator of artistic creativity.


The Bertelsmann Stiftung is both a think tank and an agent for social change. As a private operating foundation, our primary goal is to make a meaningful and enduring contribution to society. We focus our activities on projects that can decisively influence society's long-term viability.

In keeping with the longstanding social commitment of its founder, Reinhard Mohn, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is dedicated to serving the common good. Our work is based on the conviction that competition and civic engagement are essential for social progress.

In accordance with its articles of incorporation, the Bertelsmann Stiftung functions exclusively as a private operating foundation. It carries out its own project work and does not make grants or support third-party projects.

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Short Profile

NameNEUE STIMMEN Founded1987
Office LocationGütersloh, Germany
Main languageGerman Additional languages English 
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