Paula af Malmborg Ward


Paula af Malmborg Ward is one of our most distinctive opera composers. Born in 1962 in Stockholm as the daughter of conductor and opera manager Lars af Malmborg and opera singer Gunilla af Malmborg, it may seem natural, but it was popular music she devoted herself to while growing up in parallel with classical piano studies for Professor Gunnar Hallhagen.

She composed songs, arranged, sang and played piano in several groups, she worked with theatre music and television. She studied music teaching at the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm, and there also brought a passion for salsa music – then a relatively unknown genre in Sweden.

After a couple of years as a musical leader af Skottes Musikteater in Gävle, she returned to school, where she was for another 7 years, including studies for Hans Gefors at the Malmö Academy of Music.

It is significant that her diploma work The Bomb Party (premiered in 1998 at the Gothenburg Opera) both had a breakthrough as a composer and, together with the final scene from Of Mice and Men which she wrote before, the decisive step into opera composing.

Paula af Malmborg Ward has a remarkable ease of movement across genre boundaries, and over time this movement has been boiled down to its own, unmistakable musical identity, music with a lively temperament filled with ideas.

She says: The only thing we can be absolutely certain of, and indisputable that we must conduct ourselves to, is that time passes. Therefore – time, and timing, is my first and largest parameter. I am really accurate with that. Once I have set the timing, I can then rummage around in melody, harmony, timbre and rhythm without losing sight of the piece as a whole.

This ‘security system’ makes her able to add e.g. a touch of tango or bossa in a work if the context demands it. In many of her works the inspiration comes from text or picture, and often the humour has a prominent role, as in her lustful settlement with samba music in the orchestral work Sambal Dente.

Composer in Residence in The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra 2011-13
Composer’s weekend at the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra May 2011
Composer in Residence in The Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra 2006-09

Composition Master (4 years) 1997, Malmö Academy of Music
Composition Bachelor (3 years) 1992, Royal College of Music, Stockholm
Master of fine arts (4 years) 1983, Royal College of Music, Stockholm
Member of SKAP since 1991
Member of  FST since 1999, in the board 2009-15
Member of the Royal Academy of Music since 2008
Member of the Artistic Council of Music Development and Heritage Sweden 2011

Among the awards:
FST’s Rosenberg Prize 2020
Prix Italia, 1st prize 2006 for The foundling woman
Carin Malmlöf Forssling Prize 2006

For complete list of work, see: works

Tony Lundman 2004/Paula af Malmborg Ward 2021