The Norwegian National Opera (Den Norske Opera & Ballett) is coming to Savonlinna this year with a team of 220 people, and bringing two operas to be performed in Olavinlinna Castle in the last week of the Festival: Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes and Gisle Kverndokk’s Den fjerde nattevakt (The fourth Watch of the Night). These works mark the culmination of the season’s operatic repertoire – never before so rich and varied.
Says Per Boye Hansen, the new director of the Norwegian National Opera: “We are delighted and extremely proud of this invitation here at the Norwegian National Opera! The Savonlinna Opera Festival is world-famous and it is an honour to be involved in its 100th anniversary celebrations. We are bringing the best we have to Savonlinna. I believe that the operas Den fjerde nattevakt and Peter Grimes give a good picture of the present standard of Norwegian opera.”
Savonlinna’s own General Director Jan Hultin is equally enthusiastic: “It is wonderful to have as our guests an opera house that is experiencing a tremendous uplift. The eyes and hearts of the whole company are burning with enthusiasm! The Norwegians’ Peter Grimes is one of the finest productions that have ever been made of this opera. The moods of Britten’s masterpiece are magnificently captured on stage. Den fjerde nattevakt is based on the breakthrough novel by Johan Falkberget, and this is obvious. A splendid story as the libretto for an opera. On a par with the very best TV drama. This visit will be the grand finale to The Festival of a Century.”
The jubilee visitor from Oslo is right now one of the most interesting opera companies in Europe. Inspired by the magnificent new opera house it moved into in 2008 and the response of the nation at large, the Norwegian National Opera is set on a major upward artistic curve. Founded in 1957, Den Norske Opera & Ballett is Norway’s biggest performing arts establishment. The new opera house was inaugurated on April 12, 2008. It employs a staff of over 600 representing about 50 different professions and skills, and has around 25 permanent soloists. Its repertoire ranges from the earliest Baroque operas right up to works by contemporary composers such as Gisle Kverndokk and Cecilie Ore.
Over the past 15 years the Norwegian National Opera has made three previous international visits: to Norwich (The Ring) and Santiago de Compostela (Ariadne auf Naxos) in 2000 and to Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia (The Flying Dutchman) in 2004.
This year’s production of Britten’s Peter Grimes will be the second in Olavinlinna Castle. That by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1998 won ecstatic acclaim. This summer’s production, directed by Paul Curran, has had an excellent reception and presents the soloists, choir and orchestra of the Norwegian Opera at their very best. The opera will be conducted in Savonlinna by John Helmer Fiore. Notable proof of the high artistic standard of the Norwegian National Opera is the fact that all the soloists but one in Peter Grimes are the company’s own.
Den fjerde nattevakt (The fourth Watch of the Night) composed by Gisle Kverndokk and world-premiered on November 5, 2005 presents a vivid picture of a little Norwegian town, telling a story of devastating love, nature and humanity. It will be conducted by Rolf Gupta. The production to be performed in Savonlinna will be seen for the first time in Oslo on May 25 and in Olavinlinna Castle on August 1.
The Savonlinna Opera Festival is famous both for its numerous premieres and for its visits by international opera houses. Since 1987 the walls of Olavinlinna Castle have witnessed superb performances by 21 opera houses.