Norwegian musician Alexander Rybak and an opera ensemble from Norway and China have also fallen victim to Chinese anger over the Nobel Peace Prize. Authorities in Beijing are halting their production of the opera Some sunny night.
Rybak, who won last year’s Eurovision Song Contest for Norway by the biggest margin ever, had the lead role in the opera, composed by Norwegian Thomas Stanghelle. It was to premiere in Beijing on November 1 and also play in Wuhan.
Stanghelle told Dagbladet, however, that the cast received a message from the Chinese authorities that it “wasn’t possible” for them to cooperate with Norway or Norwegian artists at present. He said the reason given for the cancellation was that China wants to punish Norway over the awarding of the Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
“If that’s true, it’s very sad,” Ragnhild Imerslund of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry told newspaper Aftenposten.
Rybak told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday evening that he was disappointed by the decision and thought it seemed “unnecessary,” but said he had no hard feelings and intended to still go out for dinner “at a Chinese restaurant.”
Stanghelle was also disappointed, noting that the Chinese “punishment” means around 200 Chinese and Norwegian performers and musicians will be affected. His opera is based on the story of Norwegian marathon runner Ketil Moe, who died after a long struggle with cystic fibrosis in 1999, and Moe’s Chinese friend Mark Wang, who was severely injured in a plane crash in China. Wang eventually traveled to Norway to attend United World College after obtaining help from Norway’s Queen Sonja.
“We had very good cooperation with the Chinese until the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded,” Stanghelle told NRK. Then it collapsed, “and it seems as if we don’t have any possibility of getting our arguments across.”
Chinese authorities also cancelled some top meetings with Norwegian Fisheries Minister Lisbeth Berg-Hansen this week.