Aarhus Sommeropera


A new opera by Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen freely based on the noveL Papaja-passionen by Sanne Bjerg.

Principals: Valdemar Villadsen; Ulla Kudsk Jensen; Jens Bruno Hansen; Stina Schmidt; Jesper Mikkelsen
Director: Jens Kroggsgaard
Designer: Karin Seisbøll
Conductor: David Riddell
The Danish Sinfonietta - Randers Kammerorkester

Chains is the story of a boys who sopend his life chained to a tree in the grandmother's courtyard. His grandmother is not evil - she has chained the boy to a tree to fulfill a prophesy promising the local community prosperity. Naturally, she meets considerable opposition from resisdents in the small village, but she is more than capable of arguing her case - shouldn't the well being of the community come before that of a young boy.

The boy, Adam, is naturally unhappy with the situation and wishes to be free. A young beauty from the village, Eva, develops an interest in him, finding his captivity strangely alluring. Adam falls deeply in love with her, and they plan what they could do together if only he were free. The grandmother's health deteriorates, and on her deathbed she admits that she cannot remember the details of the prophecy. The chain breaks, and Adam gains his freedom, but this results in Eva losing herninterest in him - all his hopes and plans are now no more than empty wishes.

The critics' enthusiasm is evident:

"Composer Svend Hvidfelt Nielsen and director Jens Krogsgaard jointly wrote the libretto based on Sanne Bjerg's novel "Papaya Passion" and have created an exciting and meaningful prodtucion. The composer explains in a program article his choice of musical intervals to describe the various characters in the opera. Interesting, but somewhat technical. More interesting is that he manages to write both accessible and moving music, which, in a moderately modern musical idiom, considers both small and large questions, and, without question, accepts the genre's conventions, and emotional and expressive possibilities. A beautiful and exciting score.

The participating singers perform their parts in this grotesque tale excellently. As Adam, Valdemar Villadsen is both touching, quizzical, strong and insecure - and vocally is just right for the role. Ulla Kudsk Jensen is both tender yet scheming as his grandmother, driven by the unclear and confusing prophecy, while managing to completely dominate the fawning priest. He is played and sung convincingly by Jesper Mikkelsen, who sees great potential for Adam, once his grandmother dies. Noah is sympathetic and stoic, but also relies on the old lady - and his role is safe in the hands of Jens Bruno Hansen. His daughter Eva, who could be a good match for Adam, is performed with both sweetness and temperament by the well-singing Stina Schmidt, also showing her dramatic talents in the showdown with the fawning priest.

In the orchestra pit the excellent Randers Chamber Orchestra played under the safe management of David Riddell. Everything is well known on this front - as high quality. Karin Seisbøll drew on simple means in creating a predominantly black and white environment but with complementary colours signalling the various roles' character .... Overall the production is both thought-provoking and entertaining, with smiles, tears and horror. For this reason alone, you should visit Helsingør Theater - for fine music and singing." (Ole Straarup - Aarhus Stiftstidende) *****

"The versatile tenor Valdemar Villadsen sang Adam with a delightfully comfortable higher register. He can sing even higher parts, and you can look forward to many pleasurable experiences with him. Stina Schmidt is a versatile singer who now has repeatedly shown how exceedingly talented she is the modern opera repertoire. It was a pleasure to listen to her. As the young "couple" in the performance they actually sang two modern "belcanto duets" where such "beautiful song" was utilised as a dramatic tool. Ulla Kudsk Jensen must be mentioned for giving a fine, meaningful performance as the grandmother, as must Jens Bruno Hansen as the sympathetic Noah, who has now performed major roles in premieres of 25 modern Danish operas, and Jesper Mikkelsen, who now works mostly in Germany, here performing the slightly comical pastor, hunting for the meaning of the prophecy that the grandmother has forgotten.

Randers Chamber Orchestra under its chief conductor, David Riddell, gave a finely focused chamber music performance, full of lively impulse, but also creating a beautiful overall sound. It is a score that requires concentration and attention to detail, and this was there.

Tenor Jens Krogsgaard has made his debut as a director. A crucial positive point in his production was his precise, calm and purposeful personal direction, demonstrating that this, his directorial debut, will not be his only production. It can be clearly seen that he is deeply committed to the material. Karin Seisbøll created a fine southern European courtyard with modern drag and drop means. It made the little stage seem larger than it is, and together with Rune Halken Tønnes' subtle lighting design, it was pleasant to look at throughout the entire evening." (John Christiansen - jcklassiske.dk)

"But this performance has its strength in two things: one is that the music is mostly written with great simplicity, with the voices standing clear from the orchestra and the music has a chamber-musical transparcy, full of thematic details that interact well with the vocal parts. (The performance is) well managed by conductor David Riddell and Randers Chamber Orchestra ..... The second is that the main role of the chained-up Adam is excellently cast with tenor Valdemar Villadsen. He is totally moving and believable as he travels through his youthful destiny: almost perpetually chained to his bed, he has a kind of trusting relationship with his grandmother, yet reads books in secret - his grandmother controls what he reads, so he does not get ideas of freedom. " (Gregers Dirckinck-Holmfeld ´- gregersdh.dk) ****

"In the role as the young man tenor Valdemar Villadsen is well cast. Even though he struggled with a sore throat at the premiere, through his finely calibrated physical acting he presented Adam's vulnerability and honesty, but also his spite, created by his difficult position - dreaming of the outside world he reads of in books, yet unable to see it in reality. Ulla Kudsk Jensen's role as the strict and probably demented grandmother who, with unforgivable selfishness, dominates her grandson, stands razor sharp....

With Lænker Svend Hvidtfelt Nielsen follows up on a ten year old success at Aarhus Sommeropera. At that time, his chamber opera 'Edens Gave' was highly praised for its smooth neo-baroque tone. This time, the composer presents a new paradise-fable with arias, duets and ensembles of soloists, and does this with an 11-man strong orchestra which creates many fine timbral effects. " (Thomas Michelsen - Politiken) ****

Forestillingen blev støttet af: Aarhus Stiftstidendes Fond; Knud Højgaards Fond; Aage og Ulla Filtenborgs Fond af 8. november.