Norwegian opera premiered in Prague as part of Prague Spring music festival


On Thursday night, as part of the programme of the Prague Spring international music festival currently underway in the Czech capital, the State Opera Prague presented the world premiere of a Norwegian opera, called 'Circus Terra". Its staging is a result of close cooperation between Norwegian and Czech artists, as Alena Skodova reports:

Circus Terra is the second Norwegian opera to be premiered outside Norway, and coincidentally the first one was also premiered in Prague - way back in 1900.

Work on Circus Terra started in 1998. While this joint project features singers from The Norwegian Opera in Oslo, the conductor, stage-designer, costume-designer and choreographer are from the State Opera in Prague.

I spoke with composer Trygve Madsen, who composed Circus Terra as his first operatic work back in 1985. It tells a story of an astronaut landing in an unknown country and is conceived as an allegory about how difficult it might be for people to understand each other. Mr. Madsen explained to me how Circus Terra came into being:

"The librettist and I started working on this in the following way: four colleagues and I got that commission from the Norwegian Opera, and I said to the librettist - let's wait and see what our colleagues will come up with. They came up with very sad stories. And I said we are going to do an opposite thing, we need to play a little with things like children, as the philosopher Nietzsche said, child in a man plays, when it's a real man. So we played this out together, and so the whole thing started. We had nothing, only one thing: we will not do this opera like our colleagues did."

"It was very difficult to write the libretto, that was my fist, I have since written two others but this was the first attempt. It was difficult because it's not prose and because you have to work with images not only on stage but also in the text. It is in one sentence an allegory, a metaphor about freedom, about what binds us and what sets us free, and the answer to the last question is that it's imagination which sets us free."

Circus Terra will have its domestic premiere in Oslo in October this year.