FLAGSTAD - TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY Plays Scandinavia House This Weekend
Bjorn Simensen, director, Kirsten Flagstad Festival Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America presents Flagstad - Triumph and Tragedy, an intimate portrait of the world famous Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962), regarded by many as the voice of the century. The new play one-woman play, which will be performed here in English, was written and directed by Norwegian playwright Einar Bjorge, and stars renowned Norwegian actress Nina Bendiksen.
Flagstad - Triumph and Tragedy utilizes rare recordings and newly released source material, including personal correspondence that present, in Flagstad's own words, confessions and reflections that she never shared in public during her lifetime. Three performances only, February 26-28 at New York's Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue (at 38th Street).
The play's New York performances mark the 80th Anniversary of Flagstad's February 1935 debut at the Metropolitan Opera, which launched her into international stardom. The premiere of Flagstad - Triumph and Tragedy took place in June 2013 at The Flagstad Festival in Hamar, the soprano's birth community, and was subsequently performed at Flagstad's summer residence Amalienborg in southern Norway, and at the Oslo Opera Festival (performed in Norwegian).
KIRSTEN FLAGSTAD was a highly regarded Wagnerian soprano, ranking among the greatest singers of the 20th century. She was born July 12, 1895 in Hamar, Norway, to a musical family, trained in Oslo, and made her stage debut at the National Theatre in Oslo as Nuri in Eugen d'Albert's Tiefland in 1913. With the Opera Comique in Oslo, her roles included Desdemona opposite Leo Slezak. Flagstad debuted singing Agathe in Der Freischutz by Weber at the Stora Theater of Goteborg, Sweden, in 1928 and remained with the company until 1934. After singing operetta and lyric roles, such as Marguerite in Faust, the soprano decided to move to heavier roles such as Tosca and Aida, and in 1932 she took on the role of Isolde in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, at which time she appeared to have found her true voice.
In 1934, when the Metropolitan Opera needed a replacement for Frida Leider, Flagstad auditioned for conductor Artur Bodanzky and Met general manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza in St. Moritz, and was engaged immediately. Bodanzky's parting words for Flagstad were "Come to New York as soon as you know these roles (Isolde, the three Brunhildes, Leonore in Fidelio, and the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier). And above all do not go and get fat! Your slender, youthful figure is not the least reason you were engaged."
Flagstad's February 2, 1935 debut at the Met, as Sieglinde in Die Walkure, created a sensation. The opera was also broadcast on radio, and intermission host Geraldine Farrar discarded her prepared notes, overwhelmed by what she had just heard, and announced that a new star had just been born. Flagstad went on to perform other Wagnerian roles and, according to most critics, remains the supreme Wagnerian dramatic soprano on disc by virtue of her unique voice. She went on to perform with major companies around the world, and gave her farewell Met performance in 1952, and her last operatic appearance in 1953 in Oslo. Flagstad was the first Director of the Norwegian National Opera and in her last years gave many benefit concerts throughout Norway. She was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 1960 and died of the disease in 1962.
The Kirsten Flagstad Museum in Hamar, Norway, contains a private collection of opera artifacts, including Flagstad's costumes. In her homeland, her portrait appears on the Norwegian 100 kroner bill and on the tail section of Norwegian Air Shuttle planes.
Playwright/director EINAR BJORGE graduated with honors in Theater and Opera from the Univeristy of Oslo and founded the Oslo Project Theatre, an experimental theater company, in 1996. He has directed more than 80 theater and opera productions, and as a playwright is known for Nijinsky (1990), Alive (2001), and Waiting for James Dean (2005). His close collaboration with Liv Ullmann includes serving as assistant director on the 2009 production of A Streetcar Named Desire with Cate Blanchett as Blanche, performed in Sydney, Washington, D.C. and New York, and Uncle Vanya in Oslo (2013).
>From 2007 to 2012 Bjorge worked for Oslo Opera Festival as repertoire advisor, member of the Board, and artistic representative. He worked as artistic director for The International Ibsen Award from 2008 to 2011. Critically acclaimed for his work, Bjorge was awarded the jury Special Prize in 1997 for the text and production of Callas - La Divina, and has received numerous grants and awards from the Norwegian government. He currently serves as artistic advisor to the Board of the Oslo Opera Festival, and during the 2015-16 season will once again collaborate with Liv Ullmann on the world premiere of a theater project at the National Theater.
NINA BENDIKSEN has spent the last twenty years at many major theaters in Norway, producing and performing in productions that included Auxocrom-Cromofor, based on Frida Kahlo's diary; and Southbound, a tango show she toured with Argentinian musicians and dancers, a production she continues to tour throughout Norway and Argentina as a singer and dancer. A longtime star in Norway, Bendiksen has appeared in many films and TV dramas.