Exploring Faith and Doubt in Bergen

Bergen International Festival • Bergen, Norway • May 23–June 6, 2018

Cynthia Albers
Pano View
Bergen is described as the gateway to the fjords, and the city of seven mountains. Its hiking trails await your feet. Bergen is also an essential destination for devotees of new music and provocative theater. It is Norway’s second city (in size and population) but it ranks number one in festival production. The largest and most diverse is the Bergen International Festival, now in its 66th year.

The festival is currently on, and I am here for a cultural and digital-age immersion.

In the course of fifteen days, hundreds of performances of music, theater, dance, opera, and film will utilize more than 50 venues that range from an atmospheric island villa to a repurposed bomb shelter.

Lysøn
The island home of 19th-century violinist Ole Bull serves as a chamber music venue.

With “Faith and Doubt” as its central theme, the 2018 program ponders modern issues of spirituality, migration, human value, and racism, leading to an important question: What can we believe in today?

To begin the discussion, the festival opens with programs like these:

• A magnificent Catholic Requiem Mass set to music in 1837 by Hector Berlioz, a self-proclaimed agnostic who once stated, “I believe nothing.”

• Dar går grensen! (“That’s the Limit!”), a Norwegian theater production that questions national and individual obsessions with borders and private property.

• A staged performance of Jon Fosse’s award-winning trilogy, Andvake (“Sleepless”), a love story that flows between dreams, memories, and reality.

The festival proceeds and closes with programs like these:

• “A Man of Good Hope,” a South African musical about a life of fleeing.

• Nordic Voices teams up with saxophone quartet NoXas to present new music about extraordinary popes, and a Greek mystery cult.

• A modern re-imagining of the 17th-century Spanish play, “Life is a Dream,” performed by London dance company Rambert. Choreographer Kim Brandstrup asks, “What if our ability to create and enjoy illusion is what really makes us human?”

Life is a Dream
Rambert “Life is a Dream” Photo: Nicola Selby

A Festival for the Future

A free VR (virtual reality) lounge, seven world-premiers, and performances that focus on the digital age serve to broaden the scope and the significance of this historic festival. “We’re building a festival for the future,” says director Anders Beyer.

Although the Bergen International Festival has become a trusted platform for artistic innovation, standard classical repertoire—most notably the music of native son Edvard Grieg—continues to be well-represented.

The festival runs through June 6, 2018.

“A Man of Good Hope” a Cape Town ensemble •
Pianist Ah Ruem Ahn •
Futurist Jazz with Marius Neset

Isango Ensemble puts a twist on Mozart’s “Magic Flute” •
PERCellah • Colin Currie and Håkan Hardenberger

Faroese singer Eivør • Violinist Gidon Kremer •
Pianist Alice Di Piazza

 

© Cynthia Albers, 2018, All Rights Reserved

 

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