In 2015/16 the Norwegian National Opera presents a diverse season of opera, ranging from the foundational work of Monteverdi, directed by Ole Anders Tandberg, to a distant future in Elysium—a new work by Rolf Wallin and Mark Ravenhill.
The International Opera Award 2015 recently awarded its accessibility prize to The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet. The jury was utterly taken with the institution’s cultivation of openness, reflected not only in its beautifully designed house but also in the way it strives to make live opera available and appealing to new audiences on its stage. This mission continues in 2015/16, a season that revels in the sheer diversity of opera through works by Monteverdi, Mozart, Wagner, Verdi, Rossini, Bizet, Puccini, Janácek, and Shostakovich, all interpreted in a variety of innovative ways. Artistic director Per Boye Hansen’s third seasonal opera program features a total of twelve titles on the main stage: four new performances and eight revivals.
Elysium—A New Opera on Future Humans
On March 12, 2016, the curtain opens for the world premiere of Elysium. Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin and British author Mark Ravenhill have set their new opera a hundred years in the future, when people have managed to create a new and improved version of themselves. These transhumans look back at the 21st century with horror—more than 200 years after the first declaration of human rights, we were still unable to be fully human.
Our salvation, Wallin and Ravenhill announce, was a computer chip implanted in the neck to improve communication between people. It produces a strange, fascinating sound that transfers enormous amounts of information, thousands of times faster than our relatively plodding speech. Instead of continually misinterpreting one another, transhumans exchange complex feelings and experiences easily and accurately with the help of this chip.
Yet we learn that forty original humans are kept under stringent security precautions to perform Beethoven’s opera Fidelioonce a year for an audience of transhumans. This event is meant to recall the long battle for human rights, for so long but a sought-after dream.
The opera’s narrative follows two women, a Wife (Audrey Luna) who desires to escape the difficult life of the captive original humans, and a transhuman Woman (Eli Kristin Hanssveen), who longs to return to the truly human. The opera turns on the tension between the two women—and between old and new, authentic and ideal, tradition and change. Director: David Pountney, conductor: Baldur Brönnimann.
The Magic Flute—Mozart in Another Galaxy
Alexander Mørk-Eidem situates Mozart’s instantly captivating music on a strange planet in a galaxy far, far away, where Tamino has crashed in his space ship. He is then tasked by the Queen of the Night with finding her daughter, Pamina, who is being held prisoner underground, where the men of the planet are ensconced, including Pamina’s father, Sarastro. In this way, our new The Magic Flute becomes a divorce drama set in space.
When Mozart’s singspiel premiered in 1791, the librettist and comic Emanuel Schikaneder took on the role of Papageno himself. In our production (sung in Norwegian), the comedian Atle Antonsen plays the bird-catcher. The fantastic cast for this autumn’s family production also features the best Norwegian singers of the day, including Mari Eriksmoen and Marius Roth Christensen. Mørk-Eidem has adapted the libretto to fit our time, while Atle Halstensen has adapted Mozart’s score. Conductors are Thomas Søndergård and Øyvind Bjorå. Premieres November 28.
Productions by Ole Anders Tandberg
The 2016/16 program also includes two productions by Norwegian director Ole Anders Tandberg, starting with Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses on January 16. We encounter Penelope at a shabby party venue that reeks of stale smoke and greasy food. She has been stuck here for twenty years, waiting in her bridal gown among the tipsy guests for the husband who was sent to war in the middle of their wedding feast. The cast includes Christine Rice, David Hansen, and Kresimir Spicer. Conductor is Alessandro de Marchi.
Tandberg’s version of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk had its first premiere in Oslo in September 2014 and received further critical acclaim when it premiered at Deutsche Oper Berlin in January 2015. On April 1, 2016, the production reopens in Oslo, with Svetlana Sozdateleva and Alexey Kosarev in the main roles, and Alejo Perez as conductor.
Other Opera Productions
With American baritone Lucas Meachem in the role of Figaro, The Barber of Seville starts off the season on August 22. The production also features Norwegian soprano Eir Inerhaug as Rosina, and Taylor Stayton as Almaviva.
Beginning August 29, German baritone Björn Bürger sings the title role in Don Giovanni, conducted by Antonino Fogliani.
The first new production premieres on September 5 with Willy Decker’s intense and intimate version of Káťa Kabanová, which indulges the claustrophobic and lyric qualities of Leoš Janácek’s opera. The complex character of Káťa is sung by acclaimed Norwegian soprano Kari Postma. In the role as Káťa’s lover Boris, we will hear Czech tenor Pavel Cernoch, who has done Boris before at Oper Stuttgart and Berlin Staatsoper. The Norwegian National Opera Orchestra and Chorus will be led by one of the leading contemporary Czech conductors, Tomaš Hanus.
The Norwegian National Opera’s first director, Calixto Bieito, will reprise his successful production of Carmen starting October 2, featuring Katarina Bradic in the main role. Bieito will also lead a workshop on Mozart’s operas with young singers and direct the children’s chorus in Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten.
Two productions will benefit from Andreas Homoki’s directorial acumen. First out is Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman on November 5, here set in a Norwegian shipping company at the start of the twentieth century. Swedish baritone John Lundgren stars in the role of the Dutchman, after performing the role to great acclaim on his home stage at the opera in Copenhagen and at the Zürich Opera House. Elisabeth Teige debuts in the role of brave Senta. Conductor is Julia Jones.
The second production by Homoki is Puccini’s Turandot, on stage beginning April 30. John Helmer Fiore returns to conduct a cast that includes American soprano Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs in the title role.
Two other returning successes are Verdi’s La Traviata, directed by Tatjana Gürbaca, and Thaddeus Strassberger’s version of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. While La Traviata premieres on January 22 and features Aurelia Florian as Violetta, The Marriage of Figaro will return June 11 with Nicole Heaston as the countess. Xian Zhang conducts the first; Rinaldo Alessandrini, the second.
The Norwegian National Opera proudly presents a star-studded concert program in 2015/16. On October 17, Russian pianistGrigory Sokolov visits the opera house, which is world famous for its acoustics. Another great pianist, Norwegian Leif Ove Andsnes, will offer two concerts, a solo performance including the music of Debussy, Chopin, Beethoven, and Sibelius on December 13, and a performance of Brahms’s piano quintets with Christian Tetzlaff, Tabea Zimmermann, and Clemens Hagen on April 3. Violinist Vilde Frang will present Mozart’s violin concertos in A and Bb major with the chamber orchestra Arcangelo on February 6, and one month later, on March 6, violinist Janine Jansen will perform the music of Poulenc, Brahms, Szymanowski, and Prokofjev with the pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk. Last but not least, Bryn Terfel will present a concert with Malcom Martineau on June 12.
Throughout the season, The Norwegian National Opera Orchestra will present its own concerts as well, with James Gaffigan, Antonino Fogliani, and Rinaldo Alessandrini as conductors.