For første gang i historien er det mulig å høre en Knut Hamsun-roman bli sunget. ‘Mysterier’ hadde premiere på Den Norske Opera i går, og kanskje ville diktergeniet blitt rystet i sjelen bare av tanken. Men Hamsun-biograf Robert Ferguson som har sett operaen sammen med Dagbladet, er overrasket og forundret over hvordan Hamsuns ånd er tatt vare på.

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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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All photos: Erik Berg, The Norwegian National Opera and Ballet

Cover art by production designer Hans Petter Harboe.

Dette er en tekst som synes hvis bildet er borte

Violin virtuoso and vagabond, Nagel causes unease.

Nagel with Dagny.

The inhabitants of the small village: “A stranger has arrived in town.”

The main character, Nagel, tormented by visions.

“Mysteries” is also a love story. Nagel with Dagny.



Johan Kvandal and Knut Hamsun. Drawing by Ulf Aas.
Johan Kvandal and Knut Hamsun. Drawing by Ulf Aas.

Mysteries op. 75 by Johan Kvandal is an opera in three acts, based on the famous modernist novel with the same name by Knut Hamsun. In many ways, it is the life story of the dreamer, philosopher, vagabond and violinist Johan Nilsen Nagel – “a stranger, a foreigner of existence, God’s fixed idea”. The opera  was commissioned by The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet and world premiered on 15th January 1994. The music received excellent reviews.

Cover art by production designer Hans Petter Harboe.

Main newspaper headlines such as “Hamsun would have been proud” and “Opera success for Mysteries” reflect the work´s position as one of relatively few Norwegian operatic successes of all time. Go to Opera: Reviews to read more.

The main character, Nagel, tormented by visions.

International caliber
In 1996 the opera was selected by European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to be broadcast to all European countries. Mysteries was chosen ahead of 94 other new, international operas, which is a tremendous recognition of the opera music’s international caliber.

Violin virtuoso and vagabond, Nagel causes unease.

Media clips
“Johan Kvandal’s genial music makes the scenic almost superfluous and Nagel’s spiritual experiences are given a musical expression that measures up to Hamsun” (Klassekampen)”

“Opera success for Mysteries” (Aftenposten)

“Johan Kvandal has enriched Norwegian opera literature with an important work” (VG)

“Kvandal greeted with ovations on the world premiere of his first opera!” (Drammens Tidende)

“Mysteries” is also a love story. Nagel with Dagny.

The mysteries in Mysteries
The opera Mysteries is based on the intense novel written by Norwegian author Knut Hamsun in 1892, and is often referred to as the first Modernist novel in world literature.

The eccentric stranger Johan Nilsen Nagel arrives in a small Norwegian coastal town. Dressed in a stinging yellow suit, he sets out to stir up the local bourgeoisie with his bewildering behavior, disturbing disclosures and feverish visions. It is revealed that Nagel used to live like a vagabond around the world, yet he surprisingly turns out to be a violin virtuoso.

Mysteries is in many ways the life story of the dreamer and philosopher Johan Nilsen Nagel – “a stranger, a foreigner of existence, God’s fixed idea”. Mysteries also surround the other main characters.

The curious inhabitants and colourful figures in the small town all have something to hide: The young beauty Dagny, the anxious and warmhearted Martha and the sly, secretive Minutten. Do they carry something with them that has happened before the story starts? The mysteries in Mysteries are interpreted musically and provide an intriguing gateway to one the most fascinating dramas in modern literature.

Facts on the 1994 production
■ Conductor: Kjell Ingebretsen
■ Libretto: Barhold Halle (German translation available)
■ Director: Barthold Halle
■ Production designer: Hans Petter Harboe
■ Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes
■ Publisher: Johan Kvandal


Johan Nielsen Nagel:
Trond Halstein Moe – Baryton

Dagny Kielland:
Ragnhild Heiland Sørensen – Soprano

Johannes Grøgaard (Minutten):
Arild Helleland – Tenor

Marta Gude:
Frøydis Klausberger – Mezzo soprano

The hotel host:
Stein -Arild Thorsen – Bass

The chief constable:
Terje Stensvold – Baryton

– Jeg var i Stockholm forleden og så en opera om en komponist som ikke klarte å få ferdig sin bestilte opera. Jeg kunne ikke komme meg raskt nok hjem til pianoet, bunkene med blanke noteark og stabler med Hamsun- bøker. Forteller Johan Kvandal, som mens Nationaltheatret kaster alt  scenelys inn på Knut Hamsun, sitter ute på Slependen ved Oslo og føyer tone til tone til det som forhåpentlig vil bli en opera bygget over Hamsun- romanen “Mysterier”.

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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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– Hvorfor jeg synes ‘Mysterier’ egner seg som opera? Å jo, dette markante persongalleriet egner seg briljant på scenen: Johan Nilsen Nagel – ‘i en avstikkende gul dragt og med en vid fløjels hue’, Dagny Kielland – ‘med en tyk gul flætte nedad ryggen’ (…) Continue reading