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.
Robert Ferguson, British author and playwright living in Norway, released i 1987 the great biography ‘The enigma Knut Hamsun’. After studying Hamsun for many, many years Mysteries is still Ferguson’s favorite novel. 19 years old, he was enchanted by it. Therefore, Ferguson was very excited before watching the last rehearsal of ‘Mysteries’ by composer Johan Kvandal and librettist Barthold Halle. Three hours later he went satisfied out into the January cold.
– I think Hamsun would have been proud and amazed by the result. Both by how the smooth flow of the plot, and how the opera managed to present the main character Johan Nilsen Nagel in such an authentic and credible way. I admit that I had feared Kvandal/ Halle’s Nagel. But he kept much of his identity and the unpredictable. I must also say that I was worried about Nagel’s look. The costume was perhaps different from what I had expected.
Like Hamsun wrote, Nagel is a ‘foreigner of existence’ and carries the whole novel. Thus the importance of his strong presence in the opera. When Nagel now also exists in opera version demonstrates his position as one of the great figures in modern literature. He survives all forms of treatment from theater to opera, says Ferguson.
by Sverre Gunnar Haga, Dagbladet, January 1994