Our 2013-14 season kicks off with a session on Ibsen’s 1867 verse play Peer Gynt. Several people in the network have said they’d like to have a chance to focus on a particular play in some depth, and Peer Gynt was chosen as offering great challenges in terms not just of its content, themes, theatricality, and genre but also its specifically Scandinavian context.
We’ll read excerpts of the play, looking closely at the text, and hear from three colleagues based at Oxford about the folkloric background to the play and about the many cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary interactions the play has generated in music, dance and other arts.
For ease of reference, we will be using is the Oxford World’s Classics paperback translation of the play. Please read the play before the session.
I will explore Grieg's music in the context of his work and contemporary issues in music theatre, particularly the role of incidental music. Other topics will include Grieg/Ibsen's ambivalent relationship with Norwegian nationalism, landscape, and aesthetics. I'll be using the recent Ole Kristian Ruud/Bergen Philharmonic recording.
What are trolls for?
Trolls are something of a Norwegian national icon, and Peer Gynt helped them become so. Ibsen was very much part of a European-wide trend in both collecting folklore directly (for which he was paid by the Norwegian government) and using stories from folk culture as sources of inspiration. Supernatural creatures have a surprisingly large role to play in literature labelled ‘realist’. What sources did Ibsen draw on? What work do supernatural creatures do in folk culture? How do writers’ trolls (and fairies, and ghosts) differ from those familiar in oral narratives?
I will talk briefly about the role of dance in the play in the context of contemporary symbolist dance practice, especially in the early productions. Grieg was involved in the Copenhagen staging in 1886, and three productions at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen between 1913 and 1944 were all choreographed by the company’s Ballet Master of the moment. I will outline some of the ballets subsequently based on the play that used Grieg’s score.