30 June - 3 July, 2022: paddington rsl Sydney
The music Grieg composed for Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt has become some of the most recognisable and well-loved classical music ever created. It was originally composed as ‘Incidental Music’ for Henrik Ibsen’s five-act verse-play for performance in a theatre. We present both play and music as Ibsen originally intended.
Peer Gynt, a folk hero in Scandinavian culture, has a surprising contemporary resonance that we explore in our innovative production with music, song, drama and dance set in spellbinding, faraway places and a fantasy world of trolls and mythical creatures.
Our Conductor, Peter Alexander, has arranged Grieg's score for our 30-piece orchestra. Many of Sydney's best professional musicians will play at the performance - an invaluable opportunity for skills exchange for the sprinkling of Sydney Conservatorium students also in the pit.
Philippe Klaus has excited audiences on stage and screen, and he takes the lead role in our retelling the story of Peer Gynt. Soprano, Emily Turner, is impressive singing the role of Solveig, Peer’s long-suffering love. Elaine Hudson is Peer’s widowed mother Aase, who must contend with her feckless, tearaway son. Multi-talented Katherine Munro plays the Woman in Green, Ingrid and Anitra. Versatile Jack Elliot Mitchell takes on several key roles including the mysterious Stranger. David Kerslake and Alan Faulkner bring gravitas to roles of the Button Moulder and the Troll King respectively.
Our ensemble of professional performers has the collaborative esprit de corps of a troupe of repertory players. Our senior performers, with the knowledge of a lifetime in the theatre, are an incredible asset to our Company and an inspiration to our emerging performers.
Listen to radio interview with Artistic Director, Christine Logan, and Elaine Hudson, who plays Aase. (16min)
Henrik Johan Ibsen (1828 –1906) was a founder of modernism and an originator of realism in theatre. He was hugely influential in his time and continues to shape contemporary culture. His plays, such as a A Doll's House, Hedda Gabler, and The Wild Duck, are some of the most frequently performed today – second only to Shakespeare. Ibsen was critical observer of political, social and moral aspects of Norwegian society. His compassionate, satirical, and sometimes scandalous plays probed behind the surface of everyday life, evoking both praise and outrage from his contemporaries.
Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843 – 1907) was a major Romantic-era composer and pianist who wrote some of the most well-known and much-loved classical music. A strong Nationalist, Greig used Norwegian folk music in his compositions, contributing to Norway’s burgeoning national identity and bringing the country and its culture to an international audience. The two suites extracted from the incidental music he composed for Peer Gynt (Opus 46 and Opus 55) became smash hits as concert and recorded music.
Ibsen presents a vast overview of the times and travels of Peer Gynt both in the real Norway of his time and the fantastical mythic world of traditional folktales. In true Romantic tradition, Peer also journeys to exotic faraway places including Morocco and Egypt and experiences the highs and lows of life – as a successful businessman, lover of a Bedouin chieftan’s daughter, a shipwrecked nobody, a slave trader, false prophet and a madman. Our production places the action in the later 19th century, around the time of the work’s premiere.
Play and music
Henrik Ibsen wrote Peer Gynt as a dramatic poem early in his career, hence the strong cinematic and surreal elements and the absence of realistic prose characteristic of his later work. The five-act verse play, published in 1867, explored and satirised Norwegian culture. Ibsen asked Edvard Grieg to compose the incidental music in 1874.
Initially Grieg considered the job too difficult. However, between other work, he began setting the parts of the story that he found most interesting. Quickly Ibsen’s characters and settings stirred deep feelings for his homeland, and Grieg eventually composed around 90 minutes of music, comprising 26 separate short and long pieces interspersed throughout the play to enhance the dramatic action. The music and play were first produced for the stage in 1876 to great acclaim.