Norwegian Nirvana: Anders Beyer presents his first Bergen International Festival

20 February 2013

The 61st Bergen International Festival (22 May – 5 June) marks the first by Festival Director Anders Beyer. Well known for his varied work within the field of Arts and Culture in Denmark and the Nordic countries, as well as internationally, Beyer is looking forward to presenting his first Bergen Festival: “In my view, the Bergen International Festival is the most interesting festival in the North because it brings together cultural heritage, a national festival and modern experiments. For years this combination has given audiences great experiences and food for thought.” The 2013 Festival will continue to blend the traditional with the new, and national with international, to both challenge and entertain audiences. Highlights include Tan Dun’s opera Marco Polo directed by Netia Jones, Leif Ove Andsnes and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and a performance of Britten’s War Requiem. Marco Polo Opening the festival is a new production of Tan Dun’s opera Marco Polo, directed by the young British director, designer and video artist Netia Jones. Premiered in 1996, the opera is based on the journey of the 13th century Venetian explorer from Venice to China. Through the fusion of Western avant-garde style with Eastern tradition, Dun explores a new language of music and performing arts and uses multi-cultural elements such as Peking Opera, Kabuki, Indonesian shadow theatre, and the face painting of Tibetan ritual. Netia Jones, known for creating opera performances and concerts with integrated video production, feels that Marco Polo is perfect for her multi-media approach: – It is a great pleasure to be developing this unique project with the Bergen International Festival and the Bergen National Opera, and to be preparing such a work, which conjures up Rustichello da Pisa, Scheherzade, Dante, Shakespeare, Li Po and Mahler in one breathe. Working across several media as I do, exploring new ways of presentation, this is an exciting prospect. As an ‘opera within an opera’, bringing together infinitely disparate cultural influences, Marco Polo is a work that could only have been created by Tan Dun. – Tracing a spiritual, physical and musical journey this many-layered work offers up incredibly rich material for a highly visual performance integrating live film and projection. It is an exhilarating project to be involved with, and I hope that live and integrated visuals can respond to and reflect the myriad worlds encapsulated in Tan Dun’s imaginative landscape. Described by Tan Dun as a “perfect Polo”, American tenor Thomas Young reprises the title role, having previously sung it in Munich, Hong Kong and Zagreb. American-born mezzo-soprano Fredrika Brillembourg sings Marco, whilst Chinese bass Dong-Jian Gong returns to the role of Kublai Khan. He has made a specialty of the role and was in productions in Munich, Amsterdam, Turin, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London. Andsnes and Mahler Chamber Orchestra Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes returns to the Festival on 24 May with the celebrated Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Founded in 1997 by former members of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra comprises 45 core members from 20 different countries who today continue to pursue their vision of an independent international orchestra that plays at the highest level. Andsnes became the orchestra's official Artistic Partner in 2012 and together they plan to perform and record all of the composer’s piano concertos with Andsnes leading the orchestra from the piano. This ambitious ‘Beethoven Journey’ continues in Bergen with Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb major, Op. 19 and Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Op. 58. “Now that he has found his way into Beethoven, may he keep on going.” (New York Times). Other classical music highlights During the Bergen International Festival, the Norwegian Soloist Prize will be awarded to an especially talented young instrumentalist. This year the competition has been extended to all of the Nordic countries, and each of the five largest Nordic orchestras has selected a candidate. Each musician will give a concert in Troldsalen before coming together in Håkonshallen, where the winner will be announced on 26 May. Other highlights include German counter-tenor Andreas Scholl as he continues his European and North American tour of his latest recording The Wanderer. Accompanied by his wife Tamar Halperin, he will present songs by Mozart, Haydn, Schubert and Brahms in the historic Håkonshallen on 27 May. Joining the classical music world in celebrating Benjamin Britten’s centenary, the Bergen International Festival concludes with the British composer’s War Requiem (5 June) with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrew Litton and John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Florian Boesch (baritone) and Emily Magee (mezzo-soprano). New theatre productions Theatre and dance are also featured during the Festival and a highlight this year will be the world premiere of Origin of Species (23 – 25 May, in English on 24 May) - a co-production between Jo Strømgren Kompani (NO) and Mungo Park Theatre (DK) on the subject of Charles Darwin’s controversial book. Three actors shed different lights on the theory of evolution, mixing factual and fictional angles with a dash of cinematic freedom. Other new works included a production in English of Coelacanth (23 - 25 May) by the Norwegian writer, chorographer and director Alan Øyen and the return of Carte Blanche with the premiere of a new dance by Tibetan-Chinese choreographer Sang Jijia (3 June).