Opera på Skäret is staging La Traviata this summer. Giuseppe Verdi’s masterpiece will be featured in the twelfth season of Sweden’s largest summer opera festival.
”We’ve wanted to perform La Traviata for many years,” says Sten Niclasson, artistic director and founder. “Given the fact that it is currently the world’s most performed opera, the time has come.”
Opera på Skäret hosted a concert version of La Traviata in 2005, with Tito Beltrán and Charlotta Larsson in the lead roles. Ten years on, it is now time for a full-scale opera production of the work, which will be the fourth opera by Verdi at the festival, following Rigoletto (2006), Aida (2007) and Otello (2014).
La Traviata will be played twelve times on the main stage between August 1-30 – Thursdays at 7 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Performances: August 1, 2, 6, 8, 9, 13, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30.
In addition the opera festival is hosting a concert series on the Chamber stage starting on July 5. And as tradition dictates, on Fridays our Opera Café turns into a pub with live music, as soloists from La Traviata drop in to perform impromptu in an intimate setting.
Opera på Skäret is located outside of Kopparberg, 220 kilometers northwest of Stockholm and 350 km east of Oslo.
”We want to play La Traviata because it is one of the finest opera works. There is drama in society’s view of love, convenience and marriage. At that time it was acceptable for a young man in high society to have a mistress, but completely inexcusable to marry her. Although our views on some things have changed, human prejudices remain – and ”free love” and marriage have been debated for centuries. The same issues are today, although in a slightly different form. What is right and what is wrong? Can true love survive all of society’s prejudices?
“What’s special thing about Verdi is his phenomenal sense of musical drama. The catchy melodies are complemented by bare instrumentation that always has a dramatic purpose and effect. Plus his amazing ability to write for singers. No composer understood the human voice better than Verdi did.”
“It means that we can offer our audience one of the finest orchestras in the country, an orchestra that also has an extremely good international reputation.”
Ania Jeruc plays Violetta in this summer’s production of La Traviata and Anton Eriksson takes on the role of Giorgio Germont. Here in the company of Sten Niclasson, artistic director, and County Governor Rose-Marie Frebran, host of the traditional press meeting held at Örebro castle. Opera på Skäret presents a fine ensemble with singers from seven countries for this summer’s production of La Traviata. Four international opera stars make their Swedish debut this summer at the opera in Bergslagen.
”We have once again found some fantastic soloists whom we now have the pleasure of introducing to a Swedish opera audience,” says Sten Niclas son, artistic director. “As in previous years, it is a blend of established soloists and young rising stars who make up Opera på Skäret’s international ensemble. Over a few summer weeks they’ll offer audiences twelve performances of what is perhaps Verdi’s greatest masterpiece.
Ania Jeruc from Poland, Valdis Jansons from Latvia, Valentin Vasilio from Romania and Roger Krebs from Switzerland are four well-established stars who will perform for the first time for Swedish opera audiences. They are joined by Won Whi Choi from South Korea and Alexander Grove from the UK, who return to Opera at Skäret after performances in Aida in 2007 and Carmen in 2011, respectively. They will sing together with Swedes Anton Eriksson and Sofie Almroth – yet another Opera på Skäret debutant – and Marco Stella. Two additional singers will be contracted for the roles of Violetta and Alfredo.
”There is a great interest among opera singers, both in Sweden and internationally, to perform at Opera på Skäret,” says Sten Niclasson. “One sign of this is that our auditions last winter attracted over a hundred soloists. The Italian conductor Marcello Mottadelli returns to Opera at Skäret, this time to lead the internationally renowned Swedish Chamber Orchestra, which last performed the Barber of Seville in 2013.”
”We are very pleased to once again offer the public one of the country’s highest quality orchestras,” says Sten Niclasson. “The artistic production team includes a number of well-known Opera på Skäret profiles. Alexander Niclasson directs and Sven Östberg is responsible for set design. Anna Kjellsdotter is in charge of costumes, Kevin Wyn-Jones handles lighting design and Robin Karlsson is responsible for makeup and hair. The producer is Anna-Karin Niclasson.
Listen to soloists Ania Jeroc and Anton Eriksson, who provided a taste of La Traviata at the press meeting held at Örebro castle.
In conjunction with this summer’s production of La Traviata, we are offering a half-hour introduction to the opera just before the performances.
Sten Niclasson, Opera på Skäret’s founder and artistic director, and director Alexander Niclasson, will talk about Opera på Skäret, La Traviata and the thinking behind the staging of Verdi’s masterpiece. The half-hour introduction begins 45 minutes before the show, and costs 90 kronor per person.
Opera supé with delicacies from Bergslagen
Why not combine your visit with an opera supé? We offer three-course meals based on local foods from the forests, lakes and streams, such as elk, wild boar, venison and trout, accompanied by selected wines that especially suit game and game fish. Special dietary meals are available on request.
In cooperation with selected caterers, we offer a stylish intermission menu to suit all tastes, from coffee and cake to champagne with elegant canapés. Intermission refreshments can be ordered online in advance either on a group or individual basis. It is also possible to make special requests in advance. Examples of food and beverages will be presented here shortly. For further information: email@example.com
The critics are pouring praise over Opera på Skäret’s production of Otello after the two premieres on July 26 and 27. The singers and orchestra, as well as direction and scenography, have all been lauded.
According to Dagens Nyheter’s critic Nicholas Ringskog Ferrada-Noli, Otello is “one of the potentially strongest opera experiences. This requires singers who are both vocally talented and can act with depth, as well as an orchestra that can capture all the music’s nuances. That is the case with this production under the direction of William Relton.”
Ferrada-Noli points out the special chemistry between Michal Lehotsky’s Otello and Charlotta Larsson’s Desdemona: “…their love feels so authentic that this writer was moved to tears right from their duet in the first act. Larsson sings astonishingly well and Lehotsky is one with her role.” The third principal singer, Ole Jjörgen Kristiansen, is described as “the dreadful Iago with bravura, slippery as an eel and masterfully manipulative.”
Dagens Nyheter’s reviewer describes Cordelia Chisholm’s scenography as congenial, and adds that the orchestra, under the direction of Marcello Mottadelli, “displays a continual eagerness, but without drowning out the song.” He concludes by saying that “Opera på skäret does justice to this masterpiece. A visit is warmly recommended.”
Svenska Dagbladet’s reviewer, Karin Helander, praises the singers as “…a fine ensemble, where the minor roles are also profiled,” and points out especially the principle, Michal Lehotsky, as “a shining heroic tenor who lets madness and distraction mercilessly disintegrate Otello into nothingness.”
She refers to Ole Jörgen Kristiansen’s Iago as “a consistent study of thirst for revenge, lack of empathy and the desire to drive people to the abyss.” Charlotta Larsson “provides a brilliantly lyrical Desdemona, with a soprano voice burning with sensuous warmth and inner pleading, and then moving on to consternation, self-control and horror.”
Svenska Dagbladet’s reviewer calls the production “talented and well done”, the scenography “scaled back and well done” and considers the choir to “reach out to the audience with full power” and that the orchestra maintains “good class under the direction of Marcello Mottadelli.”
Aftonbladet’s Claes Wahlin describes the singing voices as “generally good, with strength and temperament”, and singles out – just as Dagens Nyheter did – Charlotta Larsson, who “sustains her interpretation of Desdemona all the way to the final pianissimo of prayer in the Willow Song.”
Måns Uggla of Nerikes Allehanda follows the same line when he calls Charlotta Larsson “the brightest star” and writes that “Larsson’s soprano presents a large, full resonance across the entire register, and is ready for the major world stages.”
Dala-Demokaten’s Gustaf Berglund joins in the choir of praise for Bergslagen’s own opera prima donna: “The strongest impression is made by Desdemona in Charlotta Larsson’s warm presentation.”
He further describes the production in these terms: “The great Italian operas demand feeling. Uncensored, with no safety nets. As here, in Otello. The public sat breathless during the final scene, after a three-hour performance.”
He reminded us that Opera på Skäret has managed its own grand productions, with international stars in the leading roles, for the 11th summer in a row, to which “the public travels from near and far” – and states “one can easily say that Opera på Skäret has succeeded.”
Göran Forsling of Seen and Heard International had special praise for Maestro Mottadelli, who “has worked wonders with the orchestra: powerful brass, silken strings – the orchestral music before Ave Maria is truly stunning – and elsewhere he charges the music with such intensity and punch that Toscanini probably applauded in his Heaven.”
After the second premiere, Expressen’s reviewer Lars Sjöberg lauded Richard Bauer unreservedly for his Otello: “Plácido Domingo performed it year after year, everywhere. Bauer did it at his level, and if it only occurred this one time, at Skäret this Sunday, at least I was there. And I cried.”
He describes the set as “compressed and scaled back, with an austere set design and costuming… in a personally directed balance between theatrical and musical tempo.” According to him, Marcello Mottadelli conducted ”with the right combination of Italian pressure and security, and also managed to restore song and action after an adventurous power cut that produced a blackout.”
The blackout was the result of a fierce lightning storm, “making demands beyond the theatrical and vocal performance, namely cool-headedness during three acts accompanied by rolling thunder and pattering rain, which despite the extra artillery, failed to shatter Kamila Benhamza’s fine ‘Ave Maria’.”
Read the reviews here (in Swedish unless otherwise noted):
At Opera på Skäret, Swedish and international audiences witness world-class opera. Several of the opera literature’s greatest works have been played here with internationally established singers performing, as well as young, promising, rising stars. Many singers have had their big breakthrough by performing at the festival and Opera på Skäret has therefore made a name for itself as really being “the Singers Opera house”.
Several of the big opera classics have been played here – such as La Traviata, Rigoletto, Aida, Tosca, La Bohème and Carmen. In 2011 we hit the record of most amount of visitors, when 11 500 visitors came to the festival to see Carmen.
Among the singers that have performed at Opera på Skäret through the years, there have been some great international stars from many different countries and from four different continents, such as Stuart Neill, Sandra López, Kristian Benedikt, Robert Hyman, Yana Kleyn, César Augusto Gutiérrez, Javier Palacios, Levente Pàll, Guido Paevetalu, Franco Federici and Ole Jörgen Kristiansen. Among the Swedish greats that have performed here are Tito Beltrán, Birgitta Svendén, Ingrid Tobiasson, Charlotta Larsson, Gitta-Maria Sjöberg and Matilda Paulsson.
Opera på Skäret was founded by Sten Niclasson, an opera singer and director with a background at Göteborgsoperan. The story began one summers day in 1996, when he was visiting a friend in the area, and when going for a drive they ended up at this old saw mill by the lake, that hadn’t been in use for many years. The discovery of this massive building birthed an idea for Sten Niclasson – to create an opera stage on this beautiful location by a lake, surrounded by forests and mountains.
A couple of years later it was time for the premiere, two opera galas with internationally renowned singers. The following summer it was a concert version of Verdi’s La Traviata at Opera på Skäret, and since then there has been at least one opera every year –sometimes two – complete with own scenography and costumes. There has also been Opera- and operetta concerts, pub nights with spontaneous performances by the opera singers and musicians, as well as different art exhibitions at Skäret. These festivals have filled the local area with music and art for two whole summer months.
The Opera house has now reached a certain status, and has earned a reputation as an internationally acclaimed opera stage where both Swedish and foreign singers gladly return to perform. The repertoire, with focus on having well known works, has also drawn many less experienced opera visitors to Skäret, quite often for their very first opera- experience. With popular works and world-class performances, Sten Niclasson has realized part of his vision – to spread the opera art to a partly new audience. Opera på Skäret is also the only opera house in the world with it’s own train station, and every year fully booked, chartered “opera trains” from Stockholm come to Skäret to see the opera.
Opera as a driving force
Opera på Skäret has through the years generated many millions of Swedish crowns to the local businesses. Through for example restaurants and accommodation for our visitors. Opera på Skäret has therefore become a driving force in the development of the local area and a sleepy small town. Economically, Opera på Skäret rely on three sources of income – ticket sales, funding from the state and private sponsors, with the ticket sales being the main source of income. Opera på Skäret is what it is today because of many peoples hard work, and because of various collaborations between private persons and official bodies, universities / the academic world and the regions local businesses, and also many cultural institutions and forward thinking politicians. Hundreds of people have with their engagement and often voluntary work contributed to the vibrant life the festival has today.
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“Opera på Skäret” is the only opera house in the world with its own train station. Opera-goers can book round-trip journeys on vintage trains from Stockholm.
The vintage train rides are very popular and tickets usually sell out fast. Tickets are sold as a complete package including opera tickets and the train journey, with lunch on the outbound journey and a three-course dinner on the way back. The train departs in the morning from Stockholm’s Central Station, and returns to Stockholm just before midnight on the same day.
Departures Saturdays and Sundays (August 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30).
Price Train Package: 2 450 SEK.
For more information and reservations, call +46 580 711 00 or write to email@example.com.