The recent appointment of new leaders for the The Norwegian Opera & Ballet has been met with resounding applause. They won’t formally take over until next year, but already have a high profile as the opera company reaches out to the public at large.
This week marks the Oslo Operafestival that aims to “bring opera to the people.” It’s featured unusual public appearances of opera performers and budding performers including Didrik Solli Tangen, whose booming voice could be heard inside the Oslo central train station. Other performances and events are taking place at various venues around town through the weekend.
The Opera and Ballet had already received plenty of media attention when Per Boye Hansen, age 54, was named as the new opera chief and dancer Ingrid Lorentzen, age 39, as ballet boss. Both were the unanimous choices of the Den Norske Opera & Balletts board, according to chairman Ellen Horn, and will be responsible for the repertoire in their respective divisions. Tom Remlov, director of the opera and ballet company, said he was “proud, moved and enthusiastic” over the choice of the two leaders who will form a key part of his management team.
Hansen has worked in the opera business for more than 30 years and most recently was director of the highly acclaimed Festspillene i Bergen, the annual music festival that attracts major events to the west coast city. He also has been artistic adviser at the Opera in Zurich and the Komische Oper in Berlin, where he also has worked as casting director and artistic director. He was a director in the 1980s for the Opera in Cologne and the Festspillene in Salzberg and founded the opera group Oslo Sommeropera, serving as its artistic leader from 1983 to 1992.
Lorentzen’s appointment to the Norwegian Ballet’s top administrative post was the biggest surprise, as she signaled a move from center stage to a more behind-the-scenes role. She’s been employed full-time by the Norwegian Ballet for the past 14 years, and as a soloist since 2000. She’s starred in Swan Lake, the Nutcracker and many other ballets as well as working as dancer, actor and choreographer in productions outside the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, at Trøndelag Theater and in a full-length feature film. Before joining the national ballet company she worked freelance and for the modern dance company Skånes Danseteater.
Her dancer colleagues hailed her appointment, saying they were glad that “one of our own” was chosen as leader. Lorentzen noted that the ballet has “never had a better starting point and greater potential than now” and said she looked forward to keep working with the ballet company and set it apart from other leading companies.
Hansen was also smiling from ear to ear and still is. “For me, this is really a dream come true,” he said of his appointment. “I’m enormously grateful to have this opportunity to be part of the Opera’s development.”
Both are also Norwegian, after some challenging periods with foreign personalities in top positions. The Norwegian Opera & Ballet has become part of the national heritage, not least since moving into the landmark, publicly funded Opera House on Oslo’s waterfront that’s become one of Norway’s top tourist attractions. Norwegians who never considered going to the opera have been doing so in droves, with long lines forming each year since the opening when tickets for the next season go on sale.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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