Terfel is the second recipient of the award, which was established by composer Peter Maxwell Davies, currently serving as Master of the Queen's Music, to honor musicians who have made a profound contribution to Britain's musical life. Conductor Sir Charles Mackerras was the first.
The BBC quotes the singer as saying it was an "honor and a privilege" to be given the award. "Music, singing and performing is such a joy — every day I feel blessed to be able to do what I love, and to gain recognition for it is both surprising and humbling. I hope it acts as a testament to the fact that if you are committed to doing something well, and passionate about what you do, you can most certainly succeed," he added.
Maxwell Davies, who made the announcement, described Terfel as "an inspiring figure for Welsh music and Welsh musicians throughout the world," according to the BBC.
Maxwell Davies continued that Terfel has been "setting our opera houses alight" recently with his portrayals of Scarpia in Tosca, the title role in The Flying Dutchman and his first Wotan in Wagner's Ring cycle for the Royal Opera. "He has been a leading figure on international opera and concert platforms and through his superb artistry and warmth on television he has brought classical music to the widest possible audience."
The concert and award ceremony was reportedly attended by an audience of 6,000, including the Queen's husband, Prince Philip. The program also included a performance of A Little Birthday Music, a new work by Peter Maxwell Davies and Andrew Motion, the poet laureate.
Terfel made his stage debut with the Welsh National Opera in 1990, singing Guglielmo in Mozart's CosÐ fan tutte. His career quickly skyrocketed, and he has appeared in repertoire as diverse as Mozart, Wagner, Puccini, Stravinsky, Verdi and Britten.