Festival season kicks off in Bergen

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This year’s Bergen International Festival has a program of performances that reflect other events in Norway marking the 100th anniversary of womens’ right to vote. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who attended the opening on Wednesday, called it the “mother of all festivals.”

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (center) attended the opening of the Bergen International Festival instead of the king and queen this year. At left, festival board leader Åse Kleveland and at right, festival director Anders Beyer. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Scanpix

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (center) attended the opening of the Bergen International Festival instead of the king and queen this year. At left, festival board leader Åse Kleveland and at right, festival director Anders Beyer. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor/Scanpix

The Bergen International Festival (Festspillene i Bergen) is one of the most important cultural festivals in Norway, and the largest of its kind in the Nordic countries. It has been running since 1953 and is under the patronage of Norway’s King Harald V, although he and Queen Sonja failed to make their customary appearance this year. It marked the first time in 60 years without royal representation, with Stoltenberg attending instead.

A “cultural state of emergency” has been declared in Bergen for the next 15 days, according to the festival’s new director, Anders Beyer. The festival, organizers claim, presents “art in all its guises” (music, theatre, dance, opera and visual art), along with “diversions, dialogues and disturbances” that will take place on the streets and in venues across Norway’s second-largest city, often considered its cultural capital.

The centennial of women’s suffrage was the theme of the festival’s opening speech this year, and featured a conversation between Norway’s Culture Minister Hadia Tajik, and Iceland’s former female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who is now 83 years old. Women were given the right to vote in Iceland two years after Norway, Finnbogadóttir noted, with both countries “leading the way” for universal suffrage.

Bergen Mayor Trude Drevland encouraged the audience at the opening to seek out the unknown at the festival with “an open mind.”  For more about the festival, which runs from 22 May to 5 June, click here (external link).

newsinenglish.no staff