Ibsen’s Peer Gynt Turns 150

posted on Tue, Nov 7 2017 12:55 pm by Jana Velo

Photo Credit: visitnorway.com

Norway’s most famous play, Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, celebrates its 150 year anniversary in 2017. The drama, which paints the vibrant and outrageous adventures and misdeeds of Peer Gynt, was finished on October 14, 1867, while its stage premiere opened exactly one month later.

 

To mark this milestone anniversary, Norway has been celebrating all year, both on and off stage. 

 

In June, Akershus Fortress outside of Oslo was the backdrop of a massive outdoor performance, with a cast of more than 30 actors who also sang and danced, as well as 40 musicians. 

 

Doblougs Bryggeri, a craft brewery in Fron, produced Peer Gynt 150 år Jubileumsøl  to commemorate the anniversary of the famous play.

 

The Peer Gynt Festival held near Vinstra in Gudbrandsdalen dates back to 1927. The play is partially set in this valley, and the outlandish character Peer is based on folktales from the area, so regional ties are strong. The festival became an annual event in 1967, and the 2017 10-day festival featured a nightly production of Peer Gynt on the shore of Lake Gålåvatnet.  While the main character is usually a well-known actor, local volunteers are the engine behind this long-running production. 

 

In October, a parade of hundreds walked through Bergen with the full text of Peer Gynt knitted into 571 sweaters. The effort was organized by Britt Elin Skogside, who doled out snippets of the poetic text to knitters, “hundreds of women and five men” from all over Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the Faroe Islands, Iceland and California, plus one Norwegian woman living in the Chilean mountains.

 

You can read the entire woolen text in order, or watch the parade in action.

 

Most Norwegians have read Peer Gynt or know the story. For those who want a refresher or an introduction, the Peer Gynt Festival offers video overviews in English and Norwegian.

 

Ibsen asked his friend Edvard Grieg to compose incidental music to accompany his drama. Grieg did not finish his Peer Gynt , Opus 23 until eight years after the play debuted, but Norway’s tourism bureau is including this masterpiece in the sesquicentennial.  Visit Norway chose four musical acts from various genres to record their own take on Peer Gynt. Listen to the tracks here, and see if you can identify any musical motifs from the original score.

 

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