Sunday, October 30, 2011

Norwegian National Opera Eagerly Anticipates Per Boye Hansen

Per Boye Hansen will take charge in
Norway starting January 2012
(Photo: Nytt Kunstnerisk)
Although he doesn't officially take over the position of director at Den Norske Opera until January 2012, certainly there is excited anticipation for Per Boye Hansen to arrive. Chosen from a list of 61 names, Mr. Hansen was one of only two Norwegian applicants for the job. The current director, Paul Curran has held the position since August 2007. Per Boye Hansen, born October 11, 1957, is a Norwegian opera director and has worked in opera for more than 30 years. He has previously worked as director of the Bergen International Festival (2005-2011). In the years 1983 to 1989 he was assistant director at the opera in Cologne and the Salzburg Festival. During these years he worked with such regarded directors as Michael Hampe, Willy Decker, Hans Neugebauer and Jean-Pierre Ponelle. From 2001 to 2005 he was director of the Komische Oper Berlin. Hansen has a degree in theater studies and musical director at the University of Oslo and received his diploma from the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, the Ruhr, the line of music-director. He founded the Oslo Summer Opera in 1983 where he was artistic director until 1992, and Oslo Arts Management AS in 1990 as he led until 2000. He is from 2011 chairman of the jury for the International Ibsen Award. [Source, Source] More about the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, as well as photographs of the award-winning structure of the Oslo Opera House, after the jump.

The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet (in Norwegian, Den Norske Opera & Ballett) is the first fully professional company for opera and ballet in Norway. Its seat is the Oslo Opera House. It was founded in 1957. Kirsten Flagstad, the great Norwegian soprano, was its general manager from 1958 to 1960. For most of the 20th century fierce debate has raged in the Norwegian public sphere about the possible construction of a new opera house. When a construction project finally was agreed upon, the site that was chosen was Bjørvika, an harbour area of downtown Oslo. The Oslo Opera House was opened in the spring of 2008. In January 2009, the Norwegian Opera and Ballet was reorganised. Tom Remlov is General Managing Director, and there are directors for opera, ballet and music. The director of the opera company was Glasgow-born Paul Curran. He resigned in June 2011 under pressure for not commissioning enough work from Norwegian composers. Music Director (opera, orchestra and concert) is the American conductor John Fiore. An enormous white iceberg lodged in the Bjørvika Peninsula, the Oslo Opera House melts into the fjord. Its angular marble roof slopes and slides, inviting visitors to walk all over it. Equal part public plaza and state-of-the-art home of the Norwegian Opera & Ballet, the bold architectural statement instantly sheds opera’s snooty, high-art image. It’s welcomed thousands since it opened in April, encouraging passersby to peer through its glazed auditoriums and lobbies. Internationally celebrated local architects Snøhetta won the competition to design the programmatically complex facility in 2000. With more than 1,000 rooms – many below sea level – the envelope contains extensive back-of-house and workshop facilities, six ballet studios and three stages, three auditoriums, rehearsal spaces, a banquet hall and restaurants. Despite the building’s complicated nature, the ­competition-winning concepts are evident throughout: an interior oak wave wall dividing inside from outside, and water from land; a metal-clad “factory” housing production spaces; and the white stone 'carpet' of the wrap-around plaza. All of these erect the monument along horizontal rather than vertical lines. 'We knew early on we wanted the roofscape and metal cladding to be integrated artwork,' says Simon Ewings, the design team leader, 'as well as performing as the building’s fabric.' Local artists Jorunn Sannes, Kalle Grude and Kristian Blystad employed more than 19,000 square metres of Carrara marble to sculpt the roof’s undulating topography. The factory’s stamped aluminum cladding was designed by local artists Astrid Løvaas and Kirsten Wagle, who fashioned eight types of concave and convex panels, most visible on the roof. A tactile element of the building, they resemble Braille lettering. A light installation and water sculpture by Monica Bonvicini – made of metal with jutting, angular forms – will soon be placed in the fjord at the foot of the building. 'But rather than being integrated, as the cladding,' says Ewings, 'it plays off the building’s forms.' Snøhetta has in effect crafted a symbol of Norway, projected on a local and global scale. The opera house is a key component of this industrial quarter’s renaissance as a dynamic new cultural centre: a public park is in the works, as is a plan to bury the nearby four-lane motorway under the fjord. 'It’s a changing place,' says Ewings, 'and the opera house is the first real pinprick on the map.”

"The Oslo Opera House, designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, was awarded the top prize in the Culture category at the prestigious World Architecture Festival in Barcelona at the end of October 2008, after the jury recognised the project’s power to revitalise an entire urban area, its scale as well as its coherence and clarity. We expect this to be the first in a series of prizes to be awarded in time in recognition of the special quality of this project, which manages to model a creative urban space that remains human while also being monumental and symbolic. With a surface area of 38,500 metres squared, the new Opera House in Oslo represents an impressive mixture of architecture, urbanism and landscaping, while redefining the Bjorvika peninsula on the banks of the Oslo Fjord. An abstract transposition of the Norwegian landscape and, at the same time, a monumental, already iconic public space, Snøhetta’s design demonstrates how architecture can lend a spiritual and civic value to a building that is simple in terms of its function, essentially a space with good acoustics. The architects chose to continue the performance at an urban level by using a hybrid form that also involves passers-by, giving them the chance to participate actively in the life of the city. In practice, this design has transformed an arid and flat industrial area into a public space (the project was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture) which fits in perfectly with the landscape of fjords and hills that surrounds the city of Oslo."

"Den Norske Opera's new home on the waterfront in Oslo, the Operaen, has a silhouette as startling as Sydney's iconic opera house, but while Opera Australia performs on the water, Norwegian National Opera performs over and under the water. Just under half of the new $300-million opera house lies below sea level in Oslo's harbor, so the structure was designed by Norwegian architects Snøhetta AS to withstand this additional stress on the structure, as well as any stray shipping that happens to pass. To the south of the building, a ship barrier was anchored to the bed of the fjord and rises to about 6½' beneath the surface to stop large tankers and cruise ships from accidentally drifting into the building. From the outside, the structure in Oslo has an unconventional profile with a white Carrara marble roof that slopes down into the harbor like a ski slope, creating a beach-like public area for opera-goers and non-ticket holders alike. The inside of the building is much more conventional, what Russell calls 'a model of collaboration between form and function,' adding that 'the theatres and other critical spaces [were] designed in detail from the inside out, without major constraints.' Mark Stroomer, design director for Theatre Projects, describes the main hall as 'a traditional horseshoe form, very northern European.' The auditorium seats around 1,350 in the stalls and three balconies, and each seat back has an individual screen for subtitles available in eight languages. 'The audience is quite vertical, which adds to the excitement, but we tried to keep the furthest seat no more than 30 or 32 meters away from the stage,' Stroomer says. The Operaen is Norway's first purpose-built opera house and is a deliberate, forward-looking statement that Oslo is committed to rejuvenating the harbor area where it is located. But despite the futuristic exterior, the interior also evokes its Scandinavian heritage. A massive, Baltic oak interior wall divides public and performance spaces, and balcony fronts were hand-carved by boat builders from the Norwegian coast."

[Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, Source]

1 comment:

  1. I do have one or two comments. It is stated that Per Boye Hansen was chosen from only two Norwegians who applied for the job from a list 61 names. I'm willing to believe if the list had been over 1,000,000 names long, a Norwegian would still have been chosen.

    I keep hearing talk about all these un-written Norwegian operas that Paul Curran failed to commission. What are these? Has Norway a past heritage of Norwegian operas that fill the opera stages of the world which Curran is both ignoring and failing to continue a tradition in Norway? Extensive research tells me he has not.

    My understanding, also from my research, that Paul Curran's engagement was that he should give the new opera house at Bjørvika 'international' status, which he achieved in an incredibly short time.

    Curran also encouraged native talent, Stefan Herheim, for example, to work 'at home.' The opera house in Oslo suddenly became a new
    and exciting venue on the opera map and opera-goers added it to their itineraries and reports of the work being done at the opera there were very positive.

    Can it be that Curran's non-commissioning of these, as yet, unperformed works is but an excuse to replace him, now that he has 'done his job' with a Norwegian with, shall we say, and no disrespect to Per Boye Hansen, a less international profile? Is Paul Curran a victim of Norway's Jante Law? This has been suggested also by both Norwegian and non-Norwegian arts journalists and commentators.

    Building a first class opera house is one thing, maintaining first class standards of performances within it, season after season, is quite another matter.