Old and young, professional and amateur, join in the joy and love of music at Dala-Floda

SwedenSweden Dala-Floda Opera Fest Gala Concert: Dala-Floda Church, Dalecarlia, 7.8.2022. (GF)

Julia Mattei and Linn Jansson © Göran Forsling

Ever since the inception of the Dala-Floda Opera Fest over ten years ago, the week has been rounded off with a gala concert. Most of the participants gather in the little church before an enthusiastic audience of villagers and people from the surroundings, some of whom have travelled long distances. These are quite unpretentious events, slightly improvised and rehearsals usually take place a few hours before kick-off and the programme is subject to last-minute decisions. There has been no time to print it and sometimes not even the compere of the afternoon is sure what will happen next. It happened also this year that Anna Eklund-Tarantino, host and founder of the Fest, was momentarily at a loss. But this is part of the charm and contributes greatly to the cosiness and family feeling. Here professionals who have taken part in the opera of the week mix with talented amateurs and students who have been singing in the opera chorus.

Karl-Peter Eriksson © Göran Forsling

After solemn bell-ringing, Karl Peter Eriksson, Schaunard in the La bohème performances, sang from the loft a traditional hymn from the region, which is well-known for its folk music traditions. The singer grew up not far from Dala-Floda and has the traditions in his blood. Next we were treated to a Phantasy on melodies from Bizet’s opera Carmen, compiled and arranged for violin and piano by 19-year-old Leonard Solén, who played the violin part accompanied by his father Eric Solén, the conductor of La bohème. After this opening there followed some numbers from Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Young Teodor Frej (15 years old) sang with great enthusiasm and feeling ‘Voi che sapete’. Teodor was one of the participants in the annual Opera Course for young people with special talents. They gather in the beginning of the week for exercises and training, and together they create a performance for an audience after lunch on Friday. Teodor was accompanied by Alexandra Orrgård Solén, married to Eric Solén, and instructor, choreographer and accompanist during the Opera Course.

After the ovations that followed, Ola Ottosson took over the piano stool for the next four numbers. Linnea Simon, from the chorus, a student at Opera Studio 67 in Stockholm, sang ‘Dove sono’, the Countess’s aria from Figaro, and was then joined by Linn Jansson, also member of the chorus and student at Opera Studio 67. They sang the Letter Duet from Figaro, and both seem set out for a fine career. The last number from Figaro was Bartolo’s Revenge Aria, sung by Erik Johansson, long-standing member of the organisation and a kind of factotum. He also sang in La bohème in the comic roles of Benoit and Alcindoro. His bass-baritone was well suited to the angry Bartolo.

Linn Jansson returned with Salomé’s aria from Massenet’s all too seldom performed opera Herodiade, and then Eric Solén temporarily took over the piano again to accompany his wife Alexandra for the Queen of the Night’s stratospheric second aria from Die Zauberflöte, her high coloratura spot on.

After all the high notes and female voices there was a drastic change of pitch when La bohème’s Colline, Joel Kyhle, entered and sang the touching and beautiful Aria of the Water Sprite from Dvořak’s Rusalka. Everybody knows the Song to the Moon, but this bass aria is just as beautiful. His mighty voice filled every nook and cranny of the church.

Joel Kyhla © Göran Forsling

Then we moved back in time to the mid-seventeenth century and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea. Linn Jansson and Julia Mattei, the latter member of the chorus for several years now and soon to begin her studies at the Music University in Örebro, joined forces and sang the beautiful duet ‘Pur ti miro’, the finale from the opera.

They were succeeded by the veteran of the evening, Jan Söderström (80). He has taken part in several of the productions in Dala-Floda through the years, and this time he sang Prince Gremin’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

Time then for something relatively recent. André Previn, famous conductor and pianist, was also a talented composer. In 1995 he composed an opera, A Streetcar Named Desire, based on Tennessee Williams’s play from 1947, which four years later was filmed with the young Marlon Brando in one of the main roles (he had also played the role at the Broadway premiere). The film won four Academy Awards. Previn’s opera was first seen in San Francisco during the 1998-99 season with Renée Fleming as Blanche. She sang the “hit” song ‘I Want Magic’, and in Dala-Floda it was sung with intensity by Amanda Liljefors, Mimì in the La bohème performances. Like Joel Kyhle, she is a native of the Dalecarlia region.

A Streetcar Named Desire was probably a novelty for many of the listeners. Better-known, I believe, was Verdi’s La traviata, from which Synne Vinje (Musetta in La bohème) and Erik Johansson performed parts of the big scene between Violetta and Germont in the second act. It is a very emotional scene, and I can imagine that a tear or two was shed among the listeners.

Karl Peter Eriksson, the third native Dalecerlian singer this evening, although he is now active in Gothenburg. has specialised very much in the baroque repertoire, and here he sang stylishly Henry Purcell’s Music for a While.

For a really frightening – and funny – conclusion of the first part of the concert, the final trio from Mozart’s Don Giovanni was a suitable thriller. Joel Kyhle’s formidable Commendatore, returning from the dead, to punish Linus Flogell’s Don Giovanni, with Karl Peter Eriksson’s terrified Leporello hiding in the background – all three with score in hand – created a hilarious climax to the 90-minute-long cavalcade, before the audience could stumble out in the blinding sunlight for some relaxation.

Refreshed by the flowing sun – and maybe a cup of coffee – the listeners could return for a second round of goodies. The opening was a real power injection: Sieglinde’s ‘Du bist der Lenz’ from the first act of Wagner’s Die Walküre, a glowing declaration of love, delivered with tremendous brilliance and ardour by Linnea Simon.

Linus Flogell, this year’s Marcello in La bohème and last year’s Schaunard, gave full expression to Figaro’s boisterous Factotum Aria in the best buffo tradition, and then Synne Vinje cooled things down with Manon’s ‘In quelle trine morbide’ from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut.

We don’t often hear German Lieder in concerts of this kind, which is a pity, so it was elevating to have some excerpts from two of Robert Schumann’s finest song cycles. Linus Flogell sang three songs from Dichterliebe, and Julia Mattei followed up with another three from the touching Frauenliebe und -Leben, which she declared was a favourite cycle of hers. In Frauenliebe the fictive narrator opens her heart, and so does Liù in Puccini’s Turandot when she sings ‘Tu che di gel’ before she stabs herself to death. Amanda Liljefors delivered the aria touchingly.

Touching is also the violin meditation from Massenet’s Thaïs, beautifully played by the fourth member of the Solén family, Victoria. The warmth in this piece needed a counterweight, and it was promptly delivered by Karl Peter Eriksson, who sang the so-called Frost Aria from Purcell’s King Arthur. One heard very clearly how the character shivered with cold. It could have stopped there, but Anna Eklund-Tarantino wanted to end on a more positive note. Richard Strauss’s beautiful and inward ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ from Vier Letzte Lieder presages death, but the atmosphere of the song is mild and forgiving, a gilded sorrow.

The real finale was all joy and happiness. All the participants lined up on the imaginary stage, and with the Rodolfo of the Bohéme production, tenor Clifford Lewis as Alfredo, the whole ensemble revelled in the Brindisi from La Traviata. Old and young, professional and amateur, joined in the joy and love of music, symbolising the motto for the whole festival!

Göran Forsling

Anna Eklund-Tarantino (soprano)
Karl Peter Eriksson (baritone)
Linus Flogell (baritone)
Teodor Frey (vocals)
Linn Jansson (soprano)
Erik Johansson (bass-baritone)
Joel Kyhle (bass)
Clifford Lewis (tenor)
Amanda Liljefors (soprano)
Julia Mattei (mezzo-soprano)
Alexandra Orrgård Solén (soprano, piano)
Ola Ottosson (piano)
Linnea Simon (soprano)
Eric Solén (piano)
Leonard Solén (violin)
Victoria Solén (violin)
Jan Söderström (bass)
Synne Vinje (soprano)

Bizet – Carmen Fantasy
Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro: ‘Voi che sapete’, ‘Dove sono’, Letter Duet, ‘La vendetta’
MozartDie Zauberflöte: ’Der Hölle Rache’
DvořakRusalka: bass aria
MonteverdiL’incoronazione di Poppea: ‘Pur ti miro’
TchaikovskyEugene Onegin: Gremin’s aria
PrevinA Streetcar Named Desire: ‘I Want Magic!’
Verdi – La traviata: duet from Act II
PurcellMusic for a While
MozartDon Giovanni: finale
Wagner – Die Walküre: ‘Du bist der Lenz’
Rossini – Il barbiere di Siviglia: ‘Factotum’ aria
PucciniManon Lescaut: ‘In quelle trine morbide’
Schumann – 3 songs (Dichterliebe); 3 songs (Frauenliebe und -Leben)
Puccini Turandot: ‘Tu che di gel’
MassenetThaïs: Méditation
PurcellKing Arthur: ‘The Cold Genius’
R. Strauss – ‘Beim Schlafengehen’ (Vier letzte Lieder)
Verdi – La traviata: Brindisi

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