This year's Copenhagen Opera Festival took artistic risks with great success. A string of world premieres of bold works written by female composers thrilled the critics, while the festival once again managed to bring together an audience of more than 20,000 people of all ages for musical experiences across the capital.
Copenhagen Opera Festival 2023 was bubbling over with powerful experiences.
Since its inception in 2009, the festival's ambition has been to challenge the canon while embracing a wide range of audiences. The positive response from both critics and audiences to this year's artistically risk-taking programme indicates that the mission has been more successful than ever before.
"The question is whether the festival has ever stood stronger than it did this year." This was the conclusion drawn by Politiken's music editor and opera critic Thomas Michelsen in his newsletter after an enthusiastic coverage throughout the week.
This year, the Copenhagen Opera Festival, which took place 11-20 August, focused on presenting a handful of brand new works by Danish and international female composers, many of them being staged in unconventional and extremely inventive settings. And both audiences and critics were with us all the way - down into the virtual reality kingdom of the dead at Teater Sort/Hvid and into the lonely cells of the former prison Vridsløselille, where all the daily performances of the shows 'Mortalities' and 'HJEM' reported total sell-outs. And they both earned 5 hearts from Politiken and high praise from Seismograf.
The dystopian solo opera 'LOL - Laughing Out Lonely' about lonely online characters created a moving echo chamber in the basement of the Opera House. Meanwhile, the feminist chamber opera 'The Yellow Wallpaper' at Aveny-T, composed by young British star Dani Howard, attracted international attention with a great review in the Financial Times. And the equally brand new works 'The Undoing of Carmen' and 'Times up, Kong Knud!’ drew an audience of 900 and 600, respectively, to the Festival Stage at Den Røde Plads, where Copenhagen Opera Festival has offered free opera for both children and adults for the past three years.
The number of visitors is still at a very acceptable level
Over ten days, 9,000 people visited the Festival Stage, while the total number of visitors was a little over 22,000. This means that the Copenhagen Opera Festival maintains the great level from 2022 - even though the opening concert on the Festival Stage had to be moved from the outdoor stage into the Multisalen in Nørrebrohallen, which only had half the capacity. The fact that the hall was packed with festival-goers dressed stubbornly for the storm emphasises the strong local support for the Festival Stage. That is why the tent on Den Røde Plads had been moved slightly this year to accommodate even more guests, as, luckily, the sun came out again.
On Tuesday, no less than 1,200 children and pedagogues gathered in front of the stage for the children's opera 'Troldeprinsessen' (the Troll Princess) during the sing-along event Syng Højt!
With the aim of bringing opera to even more people, Copenhagen Opera Festival had once again invited professional Danish and international actors to participate in a professional event. The initiative enables a valuable dialogue about the potential and challenges of the genre, and the international participants were introduced to Danish composers and new works.
Large-scale productions and an international touch
This year's diverse programme also spanned updated opera classics and technically magnificent productions. With award-winning soprano Yana Kleyn in the forefront, the new production of Puccini's 'Suor Angelica' brought the festival's 'Il Trittico' series to an impressive conclusion and was described as "world-class Puccini singing" by Thomas Michelsen from Politiken after the premiere at Aveny-T. On the same stage, Helsingør Kammeropera performed Wagner's monumental opera 'The Ring of the Nibelung' in a condensed, thrillingly intense version lasting three and a half hours.
Meanwhile, 'Brødre' (Brothers) - staged in the giant industrial hall Tunnelfabrikken with musicians and choir singers from Malmö Opera Orchestra and the Icelandic Opera - was a large-scale Nordic collaboration that demonstrated the festival's willingness to present performances with an international scope and literally room for everyone.
Icelandic star Daníel Bjarnason, who composed the music for 'Brødre' (Brothers), made his mark on the festival as Guest Artist of the Year and helped open up the world of opera to the curious audience - by hosting a successful Composition Masterclass with three young talents and by participating in artist talks. Similarly, the
Swedish-Norwegian soprano Marie Arnet, who sang the role of Sarah in 'Brødre' (Brothers), conducted a vocal masterclass culminating in an impressive concert on the Festival Stage.
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