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Opera på Skäret will perform Madama Butterfly in the summer of 2017. Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera about two lovers from different continents, cultural clashes and international power games will be next year’s major summertime event in Sweden.
“Madama Butterfly is a touching and eternally relevant story and Puccini’s music is among the most beautiful to be heard. Following last summer´s success with Wagner, taking on Puccini’s own favorite opera will be a delightful challenge,” says Sten Niclasson, artistic director.
Madama Butterfly will be the fourth opera by Puccini to be performed at Opera på Skäret – the previous pieces having been Tosca in 2008, the one-act Il Tabarro in 2009 and La Bohème in 2010 – the latter having been among the opera house’s greatest audience successes. Madama Butterfly is one of the most beloved works among opera audiences worldwide and is one of the operas most frequently performed at opera houses around the world. As always at Opera på Skäret, the opera will be performed in the original language, Italian, with Swedish captioning. Madame Butterfly will be performed 12 times at Opera på Skäret between July 29 and August 27.
Madama Butterfly is set in Nagasaki, Japan in about 1900 and is the story of American naval officer Pinkerton, who buys a young wife – Madame Butterfly, or Cio-Cio San, which is the geisha’s real name. What is merely a game for the naval officer turns deadly serious for the geisha, who severs the ties with her own family. Following the birth of their son, the couple’s relationship develops into a drama of life and death.
“Madama Butterfly is the ultimate emotional opera, with a moving story and music of the highest artistic level,” says Sten Niclasson.
Madama Butterfly had its world premiere at La Scala in Milan in 1904, and was performed for the first time in Sweden at the Royal Opera in Stockholm in 1908. In recent years, it has been performed to sold-out houses at both the Gothenburg Opera House and the Royal Opera.
For every production at Opera på Skäret, the cast comprises soloists of the highest international rank, each hand-picked for his/her specific qualities. Over the years, a wide range of world stars have sung here, and several foreign soloists have debuted for Swedish audiences on the Opera på Skäret stage. The performers, production team, orchestra and conductor will be presented in early 2017.
“With stunning performers in all roles, an internationally recognized conductor, a renowned opera orchestra and our fantastic choir, we hope to offer a unique interpretation of this work with the intimacy and nerve that are our hallmark,” says Sten Niclasson.
In conjunction with next summer’s production of Madama Butterfly, we are offering a half-hour introduction to the opera just before the performances. Sten Niclasson, Opera på Skäret’s founder and artistic director will talk about Opera på Skäret, Madama Butterfly and the thinking behind the staging of this Puccini masterpiece. The half-hour introduction begins 45 minutes before the show, and costs 175 SEK per person, including sparkling wine and canapés.
Opera supé with delicacies from Bergslagen
Why not combine your visit with an opera supé? We offer two-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.
The Flying Dutchman was a huge success among the country’s leading opera critics. “A brilliant production that highlights the essence of The Flying Dutchman.” These were the words of Swedish national daily Dagens Nyheter’s critic Nicholas Ringskog Ferrada Noli after the premiere. His words were echoed by the other critics, who unanimously acclaimed the production and performers.
Dagens Nyheter’s reviewer also wrote that “the stage design, choreography and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra (Svenska Kammarorkestern), under the direction of Michael Balke, impressed” and that the Opera på Skäret production “… demonstrates why the opera was an immediate success when it premiered in 1843: behind all the myths … tempestuous romanticist Richard Wagner had immense psychological sensitivity.”
Karin Helander, critic for the other Swedish national daily, Svenska Dagbladet, described the performance as “yet another victory on points” for Opera på Skäret, which over “more than a decade, has established a reliable operatic stage at Lake Ljusnaren in the community of Kopparberg.”
Lars Sjöberg, from evening tabloid Expressen, wrote of “Opera på Skäret’s beautiful, salty and well-crafted Dutchman” saying, with Sjöberg’s words, that the opera house, “the huge barn with its leaky walls feels as though it was made for Wagner, as perfect as Bayreuth itself. Not a word, not a note is lost.”
Swedish Television’s Camilla Lundberg also noted in her review for Kulturnyheterna (Cultural News) that “this place is made for Wagner,” and that “with handsome maritime projections, a great choir and an authentic German conductor, you can go a long way.”
In her review for local newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, Anna Lundström wrote: “On the whole, this felt like a very secure and promising premiere,” concluding: “Don’t miss this musical adventure this summer!”
The Swedish Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Michael Balke, also impressed the critics: “The Swedish Chamber Orchestra is the structural foundation … the playing is splendid and conductor Michael Balke … has a firm grasp of the combined performance” (NA). “Michael Balke leads the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in Wagner’s roaring maritime shading and chromatic gusts” (Svenska Dagbladet).
The two teams of performers were praised for their efforts, as was nicely summarized in local newspaper Nerikes Allehanda’s review: “These amazing soloists all carry above the sound of the orchestra.”
Most of the critics attended the first premiere and particularly highlighted Norwegian soprano Elisabeth Teige in the role of Senta: “Sensational” (SVT), “incredible, sings absolutely amazingly” (Dagens Nyheter), “ecstatically splendid soprano (Svenska Dagbladet), “radiant in her intensity” (Expressen) and “an incredible voice “ (Nerikes Allehanda), were some of the opinions expressed. Her counterpart in the second team of performers, Danish Brit-Tone Müllertz, was also praised by the critic who attended the second premiere, Anne Petterson of the local newspaper Dala‑Demokraten: “Brit-Tone Müllertz … has a compact voice that bears out amazingly well at the higher end of the range.”
In the role of the Dutchman, Thomas Hall and Lars Möller were praised for their vocal contributions. Lars Möller “sang with feeling, especially in the more dramatic passages (Dala-Demokraten). Thomas Hall “does a great job” (Dagens Nyheter), “sings with darkness, gloomy fiendishness and disturbed frustration” (Svenska Dagbladet) and “… impresses … both ghoulish and human” (Nerikes Allehanda)
Magnus Vigilius (Erik) “makes a strong impression” (Dagens Nyheter), Jens-Erik Aasbö “brings out the comical side of the role” (Svenska Dagbladet), making “a Daland who virtually flirts with the audience” (Nerikes Allehanda). Markus Pettersson (the steersman) “has potential in his warm tenor” (Dala-Demokraten) and Roger Krebs (Daland) “sang with conviction” (Dala-Demokraten) are some of the opinions expressed regarding the soloists.
Opera på Skäret’s production of La Traviata last summer was an immediate success among audience and critics. The singers of the two premieres received standing ovations, and critics joined in the chorus of praise. “Verdi and the singers are worth a trip to Skäret,” declared Svenska Dagbladet in its review.
In this production, soloists from ten different countries sang and each of the three main roles were held by two singers who alternated performances. After the two premieres, Stockholm-based Svenska Dagbladet wrote that “Ania Jeruc shines as Violetta.” Nerikes Allehanda (NA), the region’s largest newspaper, concurred with this praise of the Polish soprano in saying, “One of the best soprano voices I have heard live,” and “On a scaled-down stage… Jeruc gets tears flowing, both her own and the audience’s…”
Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter’s reviewer was one of those strongly affected by her singing: “Just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, I had a hard time holding back my tears…” he wrote. In his review, he also called Jeruc the performance’s strong point:
“She not only has strength and total control over her voice – especially in the breakneck scene at the end of the first act – she has a beautiful sound and is in her role the whole time.”
Ania Jeruc played opposite the American tenor Dominick Chenes, “a lyric tenor with fervour and a romantic glow” and the Belarusian baritone Pavel Yankovsky, who played his role with “bated authority” according to Svenska Dagbladet’s reviewer. For NA’s critics, the duets between Jeruc and Yankovsky were the evening’s “absolute highlights”.
Jessica Rose Cambio, who alternated in the role of Violetta and sang at the second premiere, received high praise from Dalarna newspapers’ critics who wrote that “she excels…with her apparent intimacy in the third act’s extended death scene.”
The same critics felt that tenor Won Whi Choi “was consistent across the register and especially good in De’miei bollenti Spiriti,” noting that “the biggest applause was justly received by baritone Valdis Jansons after di Provenza il mar. Jansons does some beautiful things when he extends phrases without breathing, something that conductor Marcello Mottadelli, an old hand at Skäret, facilitates through a consistently amplified tempo.”
The orchestra director, choir and set designer received their fair share of praise. “The harmonious Swedish Chamber Orchestra from Örebro highlights the soloists,” wrote Svenska Dagbladet. “Strong interpretation,” stated DN while NA wrote that “Under Marcello Mottadelli’s secure leadership, the singers are backed by a united and pure orchestral sound that makes it impossible to do anything but enjoy. Also, the choir sounds better than it has in several years and through the steady direction of Alexander Niclasson, the major party and masquerade scenes are clear and structured.” Both NA and DN also emphasized Sven Östberg’s clean and simple design: “The stage design is simple but functional, with small things transforming the stage between every act,” writes DN.
“A production not to be missed!” wrote the critic from English-language Seenandheard International. The critic continued, “This is a production where every individual is three-dimensional and alive. Alexander Niclasson has created an intimate chamber play, so sensitive to Verdi’s ambitions.”
The reviewer also highlighted the singers in general, and particularly Ania Jeruc: “It should also be said that the production team has been very successful in their headhunting for suitable singing actors for the characters. During forty-five years of opera-going I have never encountered a Violetta who so completely fulfils all the requirements of the role – she has them all.”
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.
FOR INQUIRIES AND TICKETS
Online (in English)
Telephone: + 46 580 711 00 (Mondays through Fridays 9 a.m – 4 p.m)
Would you like to arrange something special in connection with the opera performances? Contact us by phone or email and we’ll tell you how we can make your visit even more memorable.
“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 2017: July 29, August 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27. Train packages will be available online as from January 19, 2017.
For more information and reservations, call +46 580 711 00 or write to email@example.com.