For the first time in history, it is possible to hear a novel by Knut Hamsun sung. Yesterday, Mysteries had it’s world premiere at The Norwegian Opera. Perhaps the genious writer would have been deeply troubled to his soul just by the thought of it. But Hamsun expert Robert Ferguson, who has heard the opera together with Dagbladet, is surprised and amazed by how well Hamsun’s spirit has been kept.

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Thanks to Johan Kvandal’s strong, but introverted music, Hamsun’s “Mysteries” has survived the leap from literary existential foreignness to music drama. Many would fear that some of the best in modernist Norwegian literature might be ‘lost in translation’ from novel to opera. But Johan Kvandal’s genial music makes the scenic almost superfluous.

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“I have dreamed of a great deed on Earth”, says Johan Nilsen Nagel, the main character in Johan Kvandal’s opera Mysteries, thereby putting the main theme of the opera into works. Kvandal started working on Mysteries at the beginning of 1990. The novel is about strong characters who are well suited for musical drama, says Kvandal.

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– I was in Stockholm the other day and saw an opera about a composer who was unable to finish his commissioned opera. I couldn’t get back home to my piano quickly enough, to mye stacks of blank sheet music and Hamsun Books. Says Johan Kvandal in his home at the outskirts of Oslo, adding  note by note to what will hopefully become an opera built on Hamsun novel Mysteries, all while the National Theatre cast all stage lighting on Knut Hamsun.  

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The composer Johan Kvandal’s opera ‘Mysteries’, opus 75, was premiered in the Norwegian Opera on Saturday. It was a winner with the audience and a musical vitamin injection. Broadly constructed, it has an impact both as a musical work and as a theatrical performance.

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– Why do I think ‘Mysteries’ is suitable as an opera? Well, this distinct cast of carachters lends itself brilliantly to the stage! Johan Nilsen Nagen – ” in an eccentric yellow suit and with a wide velvet hat”,  Dagny Kielland – “with a thick blonde braid down her back”, Martha Gude – “her hair is white; her eye hair is terribly black, and appear to make the eyes smolder”, and Minutten – “his walk was so troublesome it was conspicuous; and yet he moved so quickly around”.

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