The Bergen International Festival

Last night saw the opening of the Bergen International Festival. Lasting a full two weeks (May 21st to June 4th) this main cultural event of Norway’s second city has developed into the most important annual cultural happening in Norway as such. In fact the festival, which presents art of all kinds; music, theatre, literature, dance, and visual arts, is the biggest of its kind in the Nordic region. And also in the wider world the Bergen International Festival’s renown is truly in the ascendant. More and more top cultural commentators are naming the Bergen event one of the leading festivals in Europe.

festspillene i bergen plakat

The important German newspaper Berliner Zeitung writes in a commentary prior to this year’s opening that the festival is developing into a real competitor to the equivalent happening in Salzburg; one of Europe’s and the worlds most traditional and renowned festivals of this kind. This is no minor pronunciation from the German paper, which focuses its article especially on the progressive notions behind the festival’s program.

The Bergen International festival has made the concept “Nordic Impulses” its signature trait. The goal is to present art from the Nordic countries and become the chief meeting place for artist from this part of the world. A wide range of own productions and special commissions testify to the fact that the festival is not only a recipient and host, but also a major producing contributor to the international festival landscape.

Berliner Zeitung mentions this year’s premiere of Lasse Thoresen’s “Solbøn” as an example of the progressive thinking the festival manifests. The Thoresen premiere is part of the “Nordic News” concept, which takes upon it to present commissioned works from contemporary Nordic composers. No less than four such works will premiere at this year’s festival and all the composers will be present.

The Norwegian composer Lasse Thoresen holds a position professor in composition at the national Academy of Music. He has won international fame for his pioneering work of combining phenomenology and structuralism in his analytical approach to music. His commissioned piece “Solbøn” will be performed by the celebrated vocal ensemble Nordic Voices.

The program for this year’s festival is much too comprehensive to outline here; both in terms scope and names. In fact it is almost as if it would be easier to list the names of those who will not perform. And that’s just talking about the Norwegian ones. The spectrum of Nordic artists is dazzling, and there are of course also many brilliant names form beyond our region.

To return to Berliner Zeitung, in addition to the Thoresen premiere it further mentions the Kaija Saariahos opera L´amour de loin and Calixto Bieitos version of Ibsen’s Brand as some of this year’s progressive highlights.

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