About the Nature (wp)

September 11–13, 2015 · The National Opera & Ballet, Ultima Festival

Composed concert by Henrik Hellstenius
Dramaturg/stage director: Kai Johnsen
Video: Boya Bøckmann
With Njål Sparboe, Silje Aker Johnsen, Stine Janvin Motland, Oslo Sinfonietta, Dans les Arbres

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In Ørets teater: Om naturen (Theater of the Ear: About the Nature) we meet three singers and two ensembles of musical instruments. The work has been composed by Henrik Hellstenius in collaboration with instructor and dramaturg Kai Johnsen and video artist Boya Bøckman.

Classical works of Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Edward Grieg meet the more modern music of Henrik Hellstenius, Salvatore Sciarrino, the Norwegian-French quartet Dans les arbres, and improvisations.

The project, which is a part of the Ultima festival, is a development of a series of four concerts that Henrik Hellstenius wrote as curator/composer during the Bergen International Festival in 2011. Then as now, the idea was to create something between a concert and a dramatical performance – to investigate the power that arises in the meeting between musical and dramatic languages.

The sounds of nature

Real grass was laid in the venerable old buildings of Logen in Bergen in 2011. There won’t be any grass on Scene 2 of the Oslo Opera House, but the fundamental idea of the performance is the same: to use the natural world as inspiration for a concert composed with music, text and film. Nature – the romantic, the boring, the unpredictable, the small, the enormous, the dangerous and the merciless. Nature is shapes, movement and sounds. Huge amounts of highly different sounds. The sounds of nature change through the day and through the seasons. Or maybe it’s the day and the seasons that change the sounds of nature – just as the day and the seasons change the sounds of people?

Such investigation opens for journeys in sound and geographical movement, and for reflection over the place of humans in the incomprehensible music of the landscape. This is “music” that has a lot in common with the new artistic music of today, complex and rich. The performance will present also music from singers and musicians who improvise across the purely “musical” music, into something else, where the instruments and voices break their limits and meet the sounds of the landscape and animals.

The performers

The three unique singers Njål Sparboe, Silje Aker Johnsen and Stine Janvin Motland are far more than just singers. Sparboe and Aker Johnsen have developed powerful languages of movement, and can be considered to be dancers, in addition to singers. Janvin Motland is an improvisation artist in addition to her classical training, and works with theatre and performances as a part of her artistic creativity.

Two of Norway’s leading music ensembles are also on the stage: the Oslo Sinfonietta is one of Europe’s leading ensembles for contemporary music, and consists of musicians who have played with and collaborated with the greatest living composers in the world. Dans les arbres is a highly praised quartet of jazz musicians, three Norwegian and one French, that has toured the world with music at the cutting edge between improvisation and composition.

From Thure Erik Lund: Om naturen. Essay

The natural world. Sometimes, we can see nature standing there, right in front of us. We believe it to be a figure, a reflection or a person. But it’s nature. Nature itself. He is standing there, in the middle of the street, or away on the country road, staring out into space. We are fooled, as often before, and we try to see what he is looking at, because we always become impressed and consume a bit of nature. But we see nothing. And when we turn our eyes away, nature disappears, all that is left is a small damp patch. Rather subdued, we stare at the damp patch. The sun is shining. There’s nothing we can do now except stand there and watch the damp patch evaporating in the sunshine. “Oh, well”, we think… “Nature, was it?”

Idea,music and concept by Henrik Hellstenius with director Kai Johnsen, video by Boya Böckmann. Performed by Njål Sparboe, Silje Aker Johnsen, Stine Janvin Motland, Dans les Arbres, Oslo Sinfonietta and conductor Andrea Pestalozza.