Fjellström’s Det går an: a Diamond Among New Operas

20/07/2016

Daniel Fjellström, Det går an:  Soloists,  Läcko Opera Orchestra, Simon Phipps (conductor), Läckö Castle, 16.7.2016. (NS)

Cast:
Sara Videbeck: Frida Engström
Sergeant Albert: Carl Ackerfeldt
The Aunt/Waitress Maria/Anette: Monica Danielson
Captain Karlsson: Johan Wållberg
Kitchen maid Josefina: Lisa Carlioth
Vicar Palm: Fredrik af Klint
Baron Mörck/Hans the stablehand: Karl Peter Eriksson
Baroness Mörck/Linnea: Mette af Klint
Baron Stjerne/Lindholm: Jonatan Lönnqvist
Baroness Stjerne/Siggan: Jenny Hertzman
Dalkulla Anna: Johanna Wallroth
Dalkulla Frida: Helena Magnusson
Dalkulla Vera: Emma Sventelius
Steersman Kalle: Erik Rosenius
Maid Margit: Agnes Duvander
Children: Alice Jonhäll, Magda Hedlund, Tess Gullbransson, Jacob Göransson, Lucas Hjortlinger

Production:
Läckö Slottsopera (world premiere production) Libretto: Maria Sundqvist, after Carl Jonas Love Almqvist’s novel
Direction and set: Linus Fellbom
Costume design: Anna Ardelius
Makeup design: Terésia Frisk
Lighting design: Markus Granqvist

DetGarAn1

Driving hell-for-leather, L to R: Sergeant Albert (Carl Ackerfeldt), Sara Videbeck (Frida Engström), stablehand Hans (Karl Peter Eriksson). Photo: Petter Magnusson

Carl Jonas Love Almqvist’s 1839 novel Det går an (available in English translation as Sara Videbeck) is one of the best loved books of Swedish 19th-century literature, but its author so scandalised the country that he was hounded into exile. The book’s depiction of a man and woman who enter a relationship based on equality and “only holding our love in common” was alien in a society where married women were legal minors until 1921. Though the story no longer shocks, it is beautifully told in Maria Sundqvist’s vivid libretto, and still provides food for thought.

On a steamboat from Stockholm the sergeant Albert (Carl Ackerfeldt) meets and finds himself attracted to the glazier’s daughter Sara Videbeck (Frida Engström). The opera follows these two characters as they learn about each other and as Sara explains why she wishes to separate love from the concept of lifelong marriage and a wife’s near-total dependence on her husband. Sara also explains how she plans to navigate society’s other barriers to women of her era: though she is a better glazier than her dead father was she will lose the right to work in that trade when the glazier’s widow dies.

Sara Videbeck is a magnetic personality who is determined to forge the life she wants and never gives in to bitterness (though given the odds stacked against her she could be forgiven for it). Frida Engström’s attractive soprano conveys Sara’s self-confidence and her dreams with beautiful lyricism. She is also sensitive to Sara’s moments of vulnerability, both in her wordless acting where she shows how she wonders if Albert shares her feelings and in the vivid depiction in Act 2 of how her mother had suffered under a drunken and violent husband.

Carl Ackerfeldt’s lyrical baritone captures his character perfectly: strong, elegant and confident of his place in the world. This last confidence is challenged by Sara, who confuses Albert by her unconventional responses to his flirtations. Albert becomes comically irritated by Sara’s insistence on paying her share when he invites her to a meal or shares a carriage with her. Mr Ackerfeldt judged his reactions to a tee, especially in the three scenes in Act 1 when he goes down to the steamboat’s saloon to order food or drink – his treatment of the kitchen maid goes from brusque when he feels rejected by Sara to angelic when Sara agrees to continue the journey together. Mr Ackerfeldt’s diction and projection carried his every word to the back of the courtyard.

Sara Videbeck (Frida Engström) and Sergeant Albert (Carl Ackerfeldt). Photo: Petter Magnusson.

Sara Videbeck (Frida Engström) and Sergeant Albert (Carl Ackerfeldt). Photo: Petter Magnusson.

Linus Fjellbom’s brilliant and witty production conjures up both steamboat and cart from mirrored surfaces and thin air by imaginative mime, but also brings the central couple to life with heart-warming tenderness. The minor roles in the story were without exception mastered by the versatile members of the ensemble, many of whom had two different roles as well as forming the chorus. It is genuinely difficult to single out anyone, but Lisa Carlioth’s steamboat kitchen maid Josefina and Monica Danielson’s waitress Maria were delightfully comic, and Karl Peter Eriksson managed to be first a snobbish baron and then a drunken stablehand with absolute conviction. Here I must also praise Lars Bethke’s choreography: the cast through their swaying gave vivid impressions of the rolling of the steamboat and (most brilliantly) Albert’s hell-for-leather driving style when he takes the rains of the carthorses.

Det går an is only Daniel Fjellström’s second opera but it has all the musical assurance and beauty of a late Britten opera. Mr Fjellström’s music harmoniously blends the chamber orchestra with the voices and catches the character of Almqvist’s writing – in particular its undertone of gentle humour – amazingly well. The composer masters lyricism in the “glass theme” associated with Sara, haunting beauty in the magical ending to Act 1 and rhythm and excitement, such as in the fun and complex ensemble “Detta är Strängnäs”, as well as heart-rending sorrow in the funeral music for Sara’s mother. The music also develops with the characters, in particular following Albert’s development from bluff soldier with his own martial theme to his becoming musically one with Sara as their love deepens. Simon Phipps and the Läckö Opera Orchestra lovingly presented the music with shimmering transparency and warm lyricism.

“To cut glass one must have a diamond,” says Sara, which for Albert is metaphorical for his perceived failure to win her heart (“I have only flint in my pocket”) in his spellbinding Act 1 final aria. This opera is outstanding, and is a diamond that should cut its way through the glass ceiling that prevents much new opera entering the repertoire.

Niklas Smith

This production is performed at Läckö Castle on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays until Saturday 30 July. It will also be performed in Lund on 5 and 6 August. A detailed synopsis in English is in the opera programme booklet.

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2018: A Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Season at the Royal Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018 Cheltenham Music Festival – 30 June to 15 July __________________________________
  • NEW! Staatsoper Unter de Linden in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! St Petersburg Ballet Theatre Bring Swan Lake to London in August __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces its 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Booking Open for Longborough Festival Opera 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Additional Tickets Now Available for Nevill Holt Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Four-Day Celebration of Art Song in April 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere by Novaya Opera of Pushkin – The Opera in the Theatre in the Woods __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella in Cinemas on 15 May with Live Q&A __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month