“SOLARIS”, a work by Icelandic composer and conductor Daníel Bjarnason (who will share his operatic visions at Operastorming #1) and the australian artist Ben Frost (who has lived for extensive periods in Iceland) will be performed at the Adelaide Festival in Australia tonight.
“Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Krakow writer Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris, Ben Frost and Daníel Bjarnason were commissioned by Unsound to write this work for strings, percussion, prepared piano, guitars and electronics – a narrative of sound that is an exploration of an interior cosmos. The performance features members of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and film manipulations by Brian Eno and Nick Robertson, drawing on moments from the Tarkovsky film adaptation, to create a visual parallel to the music composition process.” (from the Unsound webpage)
The creative partnership of Daníel and Ben has yielded some exciting results (The Icelandic Music Award for best film score among other things), but now Daníel and Ben are both preparing individual operatic works. Daníel is working on a commission for the Icelandic Opera and international co-producers (we shall learn more on April 18th). Ben Frost will compose and direct a new opera set to premiere this year, an adaptation of Ian Bank’s cult novel The Wasp Factory . The work is commissioned by the Bregenz Festival’s Art of our Times programme, and co-produced with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and others.
These guys are bound to work up a storm in the opera world!
One of the experienced opera creators who will be with us at Operastroming #1 is the dramatist, librettist and author Kerstin Perski . She has in the last fifteen years worked extensively with music drama and written several opera-libretti. Her most notable operatic works to date are librettos for Hans Gefors’s “Cry wolf” (a german version was premiered in Lübeck in 2002 under the name “Der Wolf kommt”), Paula af Malmborg Ward’s “Operation Love” and “The scar” (The latter, based freely on the story ”The heart of a dog” by Michail Bulgakov), Karin Rehnqvist’s “The beauty school – a horror opera from the age of 10” , which has been staged in Scandinavia and by several German houses (Mannheim opera in 2003, Braunschweig in 2005, Hannover 2012). In 2007, the Jyske Opera’s production of “Confessions” (composer: Niels Marthinsen/ librettist: Kerstin Perski), received the prestigious Danish Reumert price for opera of the year. Among Karin Perski’s upcoming work is the libretto for “Wave of fire”, a new opera by composer Karin Rehnqvist, commissioned by the Royal Opera in Stockholm, a libretto based on Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1946 film “Notorious!”, for composer Hans Gefors (the opera will have its world premiere at the Gothenburg opera in 2015), as well as a libretto for the Vadstena Academy with the working title “The Son of Heaven”.
Kerstin has a lot on her mind when it comes to libretto writing, collaborations with composers and the intricacies of the creative process. We look especially forward to her contribution on April 18th!
Per Boye Hansen, artistic director of the Norwegian National Opera in Oslo, is a force to be reckoned with. Not only does he have great ambitions to consolidate the Norwegian Opera’s position as a bright star in the galaxy of world class opera, he is also giving Nordic opera a welcome vitamin boost by putting greater focus on new work. Starting with the 2014 premiere of a new opera based on the material of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt by Estonian composer Jüri Reinvere (who will also be with us at Operastorming #1) the Norwegian National Opera will present a new work every season. And to get the opera innovation juices flowing even further, he and Michael Boder (another Operastorming key contributor) have a Nordic Biennale for new work in the pipeline.
When asked in an interview last year about the importance of new repertoire, this is one of the things he had to say: “It is indeed very important to develop new repertoire. This is the essence of a living art form”. At Operastorming #1 he will dig deeper into this notion and share his insights on an array of relevant topics, including the creative process and the frameworks needed to support it.
In collaboration with his choreographer wife Åsa, composer and tenor Carl Unander-Scharin is developing the new work SING THE BODY ELECTRIC! at the University College of Opera in Stockholm. The work is an embodied opera, a corporatorio, where music, voice, body, movement and interaction concur in the performance. The libretto is based on texts from Albert Einstein’s “The World as I See It, Walt Whitman’s “I Sing The Body Electric!” and poems by William Blake. Key themes being democracy, equality, reconciliation, diversity, responsibility, respect and freedom.
At Operastorming #1, Carl will allow us a glimpse into his magical high-tech sound world and introduce us to emerging technologies, developed for and through operatic work, namely, Throat IV, Throat for iPhone, The Virtual Viola da Gamba, The Viewsonic, and Contortionsts ear.
Electrifying stuff to say the least!
For more information on Carl Unander-Scharin and his work check out his webpage electronic opera.
Here an interesting television coverage of a previous project, Opera Mecatronica, in Swedish.
In a year 2000 interview with the Musikverein Monatszeitung, the conductor Michael Boder, a great champion of new music, discusses the state of contemporary opera and voices concerns over the overemphasis on historical praxis and that too much obsessing with the past might divert attention from new developments.
When asked if this extreme interest in the old isn’t just a manifestation of the shortcomings of new music and the hermetic isolated position it has created for itself, Boder answers that one of the major problems, in his view, is that when the Viennese School (Wiener Schule) emerged, a gradual disconnection from the theatre took place. This was an actual problem because it was in fact “the theatre that had for hundreds of years served as the motor of many musical innovations”. Boder then prompts us to think about Gluck, Mozart and Wagner, and observe the continuous line that clearly points to the certain fact that “more than half of the true revolutions in music happened in the realm of the theatre”. Boder further points out that “the very moment when they disconnected from the theatre and withdrew themselves to small sophisticated circles, they also managed to alienate the audience to some degree. And to this day we struggle to overcome this problem”.
In the interview Boder further emphasizes the importance of new music theatre works (neuen Musiktheaterwerken) finding their way to the audience, the fact that “the big opera houses just don’t produce enough new stuff” and points out the simple statistic of repertoire development: “When 80, 90, years ago, ten premieres of new work came out in a year, one work remained (in the repertoire). But when you just produce one new work a year, it can easily happen that this one work does not survive (in the repertoire)”
For those of you who want to read this interesting interview here is the full version (in german).
We look forward to taking up these themes in a Nordic context with Michael Boder at Operastorming #1, and hear what he thinks about the developments that have taken place in the little over a decade that has passed since this interview.
Michael Boder is as of the season 2012/2013 the Principal Conductor and Artistic advisor of the Royal Danish Theatre and Orchestra.
(Fragments translated by A.Danielsen)
(Photo: Intermusica/Alexander Vasiljev)
Within a time span ranging from August 2007 until June 2013 we have 773 productions, in 34 cities in the Nordic countries. Out of the 773 productions 38 are world premieres of new operas. Only 12 are produced by the major national opera companies, and then rarely on the main stage.
Of course we have to take into account that the economic crisis of 2008 put a major dent in the budgets of many of the opera houses, but still the development has not deviated dramatically from that of the previous decade.
Not surprisingly, the Nordic composer whose work is most frequently performed worldwide is Kaija Saariaho. Looking at production frequency Saariaho ranks no. 1 among female composers, she is no. 15 on the list of living composers and comes in at place 96 on the current top 100 list of opera composers, dead or alive. (statistics source: Operabase).
A new opera by Saariaho is scheduled to premiere at ROH Covent Garden in 2020, part of something one can surely call a new opera extravaganza by today’s standards, as four new operas will premiere at Covent Garden in 2020, a culminating point of Tony Pappano and Kasper Holtens strong emphasis on the development of new work over the coming years.
Here a very interesting interview with Saariaho and images from the 2010 Vlaamse Opera production of L´Amour de loin (Love from Afar). Again presented at the Canadian Opera in 2012.
The Estonian composer Jüri Reinvere had great success with his first opera PURGE (after Sofi Oksanens award winning novel) at the Helsinki Opera last year. Now he is tackling the material of Ibsens Peer Gynt, scheduled to premiere at the Norwegian national Opera & Ballet in 2014.
Jüri Reinvere will be sharing his insights with us at Operastorming #1
Sofi Oksanen and Gerhard Lock describe Jüri Reinvere (full article):
“Typically for Reinvere meanings are multifaceted, he moves beyond genre limitations, and recognizes the natural transition from music to poetry. In music he uses materials ranging from traditional instruments to sounds of nature and accompanying sounds of interpretation—and among the latter, most particularly, breathing—or phenomena that relate to sound environments like the echo in a room. Reinvere’s ease with crossing boundaries comes also from his having lived in societies with contrasting lifestyles and belief systems: the atheistic Soviet world replaced by Catholic Poland and followed by Lutheran Finland. Reinvere also lived for an extended period in Stockholm. In 2005, he established his permanent home in Berlin.”
(Photographer: Aaron Nace)
Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason who will be one of the key contributors at Operastorming #1 took home the prize for Composer of the Year at the Icleandic Music Awards on February 20th. He received the prize for his 2012 compositions “The Isle Is Full Of Noises” and “Over Light Earth”.
Daníel, along with Ben Frost also won the best music category at the Icelandic Film and TV Awards on February 16th for the score to the film’Djúpið” (‘The Deep’), directed by Baltasar Kormákur.
Daníels upcoming engagements include a new commission for L.A. Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.
We look forward to Daníels operatic work!
Notera datumet 18 april i er kalender. Hela dagen ägnas åt Operastorming i Stockholm. I Norden har alla huvudstäder utom Stockholm byggt ett nytt operahus det senaste decenniet. Men vad ska vi spela för verk i husen?
Operastorming är ett symposium för dig som skapar eller vill skapa framtidens opera – komponister, librettister, producenter, chefer, regissörer, scenografer, kostymörer, maskörer, kommunikatörer, sångare, musiker med flera.
And in English…
Save the date – 18th of April! A whole day (and evening) devoted to Operastorming.
In the last two decades we have seen the rise of great new opera houses, monuments of Nordic architecture and innovation – but where are the continuous innovative developments in the Nordic operatic repertoire? What do we want to see on these magnificent Nordic stages in the future? Maybe more than just the sporadic appearance of new work?
Operastorming is a symposium for all of us who create or want to create opera today and tomorrow – composers, libretto writers, producers, CEOs, directors, conductors, set-designers, costume-designers, marketers, singers, musicians and others.
On this blog we will share our thoughts on New Nordic Opera and welcome yours!