Adam RydeNewsLeave a Comment


With words like “future of the opera”, “sublime”, “Gesamtkunstwerk”, “fantastic worlds” and “highly sophisticated”, we feel entitled to consider Vespertine well recieved. On 26 May, we presented the world premiere of this magnificent collaboration with Nationaltheater Mannheim to an excited and enthusiastic audience.

It was a great pleasure to finally be able to celebrate the long and fruitful process of creating this work in co-production with NTM. Hotel Pro Forma has staged the opera, including concept, stage direction, set design, video design, light design, and costumes.

Vespertine will be performing several times at NTM over the summer.

Read reviews here (right) and find more on Vespertine here.

»Ji Yoon and Aki Hashimoto give Björk’s Sinuous voice, which generates a world of emotions in every note, a schooled expression of classical singing that nevertheless does not create an opera-like effect. The sounds, in no way unfamiliar, are transferred to the symphonic, and the suggestive scene image transfers pop aesthetics to the operatic genre in an admirable way without the one genre having to give way to the other.

Have we witnessed the future of the opera? It is a highly promising beginning at any rate. Unrestrained enthusiasm at the premiere.«

»Mannheim. A pop album as an opera? The National Theatre in Mannheim has dared to carry out the experiment and has created a fascinating evening at the opera house: Björk’s Vespertine. A combined team has constructed a scenic work out of the concept album from 2001. The trio Himmelfahrt Scores has transcribed the album and converted it into a score. The directors Kirsten Dehlholm (Hotel Pro Forma) and Jon Skulberg have moulded the lyrics into a narrative.«

»Adam Ryde Ankarfeldt’s video visualisation delve deep into the microscopic. Fantastic worlds of colour and shapes appear, are projected. Photographs and videos of cells, the network inside the brain as well as the microscopic, translucent building blocks of life. It is staged in visionary and utopian style, with Maja Ziska’s scenography and Fredrik Floen’s costumes.«

»As in the original, the harp is fully occupied – here there are two that unfold their naturally glittering magic from the stage boxes.«

»Plenty of percussion is included, which also belongs to the rhythmic aspect of the original. There is plenty of twinkling in the score, tubular bells and idiophones are actively employed. But the Mannheim adaptation hardly sounds like pop, more like a grand opera when the anthem-like cadences have a great effect when played by the large orchestra.«

»Ji Yoon and Aki Hashimoto are classically trained singers and make no attempt to imitate Björk’s emotional style of singing – they sing with elegant, beautiful operatic voices. Sublime songs, brilliant cantilena-style, quiet and intimate. In this way both of them lend the songs the best possible classical feeling. When the songs initially occasionally sound like Benjamin Britten in their wandering melodic lines, this only goes to show that pop too can be highly sophisticated.«

»The baritone Raymond Ayers sings the part of the illuminated man in an expressive, convincing manner and the voice of the boy soprano provides the seraphic effect. In addition, there is the National Theatre’s boy choir, dressed as stones, and the female choir as a mythical landscape. An intoxicating experience for all the senses.«

»…The enthuiastic response at the end of the 75-minute stage version was more than justified.«

»…It was only natural that the somewhat eccentric Björk had to be translated into the operatic genre. For in her own stagings she has always sought a close connection with the visual art forms so as to make a kind of gesamtkunstwerk out of her music. And Vespertine plays on the keyboard of that genre.«

»…Similarly, anyone in the audience at the almost sold-out National Theatre encounters an overwhelming blend of video-art, Adam Ryde Ankarfeldt, imaginative stage design, Maja Ziska, lighting effects, Jesper Kongshaug, fairytale costumes, Fredrik Floen, and of course the sounds of the Icelandic singer. And they are highly successful unplugged, i.e. transposed from the world of the synthesizer and the computer to the acoustic spheres of a symphony orchestra. The musicians conjure up many-facetted sounds, from gentle, gliding and hovering notes via enormous upsurges to brilliant diversions. The more restrained, introvert and melodic songs of the album, often doubled on some of the tracks, are here transformed by two congenial sopranoes, Ji Yoon and Aki Hashimoto, in poignant duets. Additionally, there is a baritone and a boy soprano who in his diction gets closest to the phrasing of the wilful Björk. In an effectively functional interaction between orchestra, soloists and the powerful female choir and boy choir the most powerful moments arise to form an overall, moving gesamtkunstwerk. It is impossible not to get goosebumps in such passages, of which there are several.«

»And the symbiosis that directors Kirsten Dehlholm and Jon Skulberg from the theatrical collective Hotel Pro Forma achieve out of the acoustic and optical shifts is simply gripping. Entranced, the onlooker allows himself or herself to be carried off on a stream of sounds and projections.«

»But since an opera normally has to have a plot, the Danes are faced with a similar challenge. The solution chosen in Vespertine is to have a female scientist and her doppelgänger who, in the icy unreality of the North, are engaged in research in their laboratory – artificial intelligence, even a homunculus? Already here, there is room for interpretation that the stage version leaves to the audience. Although this story was basically not a necessary one. One is so gripped by the broad current of sound.«

»A mixed audience, including many young theatre-goers, follow the unusual stage version in deep concentration. Finally, there is loud applause that refuses to stop, with shouts of appreciation and enthusiastic whistling – the sort of atmosphere one usually associates more with a pop concert. And in actual fact, the Danish theatre team have succeeded in this crossover production in opening up the all too dusty core repertoire of the opera world, with its canon of classical composers.«

»It is more closely related to the minimalist works of a Philip Glass or a Robert Wilson. Like their hypnotic works, Vespertine is also simply a fascinating experience.«

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *