Swedisch concertante operas

Swedisch concertantE operas

We Swedes have a tendency to be a little bit ashamed of our own operas. It’s mainly because they haven’t really made their mark internationally, as in many other countries with a more limited operatic tradition such as Poland, Hungary or Denmark.

Most people find it hard to believe that there are any Swedish operas at all. And yet we have a long and proud tradition dating back to the days of Gustav III, when his Gustavian operas – often using his own text – burst onto the Swedish operatic scene. Of course at the time most composers had to be shipped in from abroad, but it was a start and a boost for the Swedish language. While Gluck and Mozart were making their breakthroughs down in Europe, composers such as Joseph Martin Kraus, Johann Gottlieb Naumann and Abbé Vogler were enjoying considerable operatic achievements here in Sweden. 

We hope that this little sample will pique your interest in discovering more Swedish operas, from the contemporary right back to Gustav III’s first attempts in the 1700s.    

Here at the Göteborg Opera we’ve decided to highlight some of our successful opera composers from the latter part of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. In three concertante opera performances we are presenting our “dream-team” of Ivar Hallström, Ture Rangström and Gösta Nystroem. None of these operas has ever been available on CD, which is particularly surprising in the case of Rangström’s Kronbruden (The Crown Bride), as it has been one of the most popular Swedish operas performed in many different productions. It’s the complete opposite with Hallström’s Vikingarna (The Vikings), which hasn’t been heard since its most recent performance at the Royal Swedish Opera in 1882! We’re fascinated to see how it’s going to sound; a piece that is said to have the best music of the 19th century’s most successful opera composers. 

Nystroem’s Herr Arnes penningar (Mr. Arne’s Money) is something of a Gothenburg piece, inspired by the Bohuslän coastline just north of Gothenburg. It was first performed at Stora Teatern, and performed only once after that. Taking its lead from the French group of the 1920s “Les six” (The six), Nystroem's score is the most modernistic of the three works. We have deliberately chosen operas with different styles and from various epochs: from Hallström’s national romanticism via Rangström’s impressionism to Nystroem’s modernism. We hope this will give audiences a sample of what Swedish opera has to offer at its best. 

But still it’s only a taster. There is a vast array of Swedish opera talent out there to present, including composers such as Andreas Hallén, Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Elfrida Andrée, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Helena Munktell, Gunnar de Frumerie, Hilding Rosenberg, Lars Johan Werle, Ingvar Lidholm, up to today’s Daniel Börtz and Hans Gefors. Nonetheless, it’s a start. And on the subject of Hans Gefors, whose Notorious was such a triumph in 2015, it’s important for works to go beyond a first performance and be played again. And again. And again. It’s the only way for them to reach a wider audience.

We hope that this little sample will pique your interest in discovering more Swedish operas, from the contemporary right back to Gustav III’s first attempts in the 1700s.

GÖRAN GADEMAN
Dramaturgist

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