Peter Sellars, Chuck Berry are winners of 2014 Polar Music Prize

Peter Sellars at his home in Culver City in 2013.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

They’ve probably never shared a stage together, and they are a strange match even by the odd-pairings standards of entertainment awards.

Peter Sellars, the innovative Los Angeles-based director of opera and theater, and rock pioneer Chuck Berry were named the dual recipients of the annual Polar Music Prize, one of the highest honors in the field of music.

The prize, which was founded 25 years ago by ABBA manager Stig “Stikkan” Anderson, will be handed out at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on Aug. 26.

Organizers of the prize cited Sellars’ body of work as representing “what the Polar Music Prize is all about: highlighting the music and presenting it in a new context.” Sellars is recognized around the world for his unconventional stagings of classic works, and has directed productions of Shakespeare, Mozart, Bach and numerous others.


The 56-year-old director frequently collaborates with composer John Adams, and has staged his operas “Doctor Atomic” and “Nixon in China.”

Sellars is a professor in the world art and cultures department at UCLA. He has worked frequently with the L.A. Philharmonic, and recently staged Adams’ oratorio “The Gospel According to the Other Mary.”

Berry, 87, is best known for his rock classics “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” He has received numerous honors throughout his lengthy career and has been inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Organizers of the Polar Music Prize have traditionally chosen two winners each year, one from the world of classical and one from the pop world.

Last year’s recipients were Finnish French composer Kaija Saariaho and Senegalese musician Yossou N’Dour. The previous year, the winners were cellist Yo-Yo Ma and singer Paul Simon.