Kulturhuset’s answer to a medium left tabescent in an age of TV and the Internet.
On the 3rd of March, Kulturhuset launched Operafest in cooperation with the Nordnorsk Opera og Symfoniorkester. The aim is to perform an interactive piece shortened to just an hour in an attempt to revive a wilting art form. Every six months, Kulturhuset will show a new opera translated to Norwegian for the benefit of the audience. The performers and orchestra play side-by-side and off each other on stage with several interludes to explain and interact with the crowd. In essence, NOSO and Kulturhuset are doing for Opera what the Abridged Shakespeare Company does for 16th Century English Lit.
The first opera chosen was the rom-com, Gioachino Puccini’s Barber of Seville. The story was presented by NOSO’s head of Opera Katharina Jakhelln Semb at the top of the show. Laconically put, is about a count that falls in love with a woman. However, he goes around in disguise to see if she loves him for him and not his money, all the while her guardian is suspicious of this man incognito.
The canorous perorations of the players were a delight, though I fear if I had been placed a few rows back, I would be struggling to hear some of the fine operatic singing as the Barber especially lacked a real stentorian presence on stage. But I hope for the sake of those to my arriere who paid kr. 150- a ticket that his voice carried deceptively far back into the balconies despite its apparent lack of volume.
Italian Opera was the Jersey Shore of its time. A repertoire riant of pieces that put the emphasis on aureate, sumptuous set designs, which belie rather trite scripts. Pure entertainment. None of that was present here- excepting the mirth of the event. Scandinavian minimalism demanded a back wall that looked like the unlit indoor-side of a garage door; there was a pronounced exiguity of color and design that was only broken up with the appearance of the actors whose sartorial splendor was the only hint of Italian exuberance a la mode 1800s.
In short, while it may not be Opera how we know it, this avant garde approach is getting not just this generation, but the next, interested and excitied. All thanks to an anabiotic performance that sets Operafest on track to saving this marcescent medium from disappearing to a mere page on Wikipedia.