peer gynt - a tale of lies, selfishness, & fake news
Henrik Ibsen was deadly serious about the social critique he made in Peer Gynt. Edvard Grieg was inspired by the drama and colour in Ibsen's re-telling of a familiar tale from their homeland. Our new adaptation is by the internationally-recognised Norwegian dramaturg, Dr May-Brit Akerholt.
Ibsen and the play
Norway’s greatest writer Henrik Ibsen originally wrote Peer Gynt as a dramatic poem. In 1874 Ibsen wrote to Grieg and told him he was thinking of adapting Peer Gynt for the stage. "Will you compose the music that will be required?"
The play is a veritable blast of energetic action, colourful tableaux and spectacular events. It is a highly political and serious dramatization of a life wasted in pursuing dreams, fleeing from responsibility, seeking power instead of love.
"Ibsen dramatised the underbelly of his society and his plays found international relevance. And they remain relevant: the low underground rumbling of human experience has not changed much." (May-Brit Akerholt translator and dramaturg).
Grieg and the music
When Henrik Ibsen approached Edvard Grieg, Norway’s greatest composer, about the idea of recasting his dramatic poem Peer Gynt into a stage play with music, there are indications that Grieg considered the job too difficult.
Although involved with other projects at the time, Grieg began setting the pieces of the story that most interested him. He quickly found that Ibsen’s characters and settings stirred deeply-held feelings for his homeland, and he ended up composing about 90 minutes of music.
The 26 separate numbers, short and long, are interspersed throughout the sprawling, epic play. In each case they intensify and magnify the drama. Grieg’s composition has orchestral colour and vocal flair, giving the players and singers hugely rewarding music.
"Peer Gynt, inspired by Norwegian folk tales, is the most prophetically modern of all Ibsen’s plays. Like your typical American politician, Peer, is a figure of great bluster, ambition and duplicity."
New York Times
"The attack on 'selfishness' is an attack on man’s self-esteem; to surrender one, is to surrender the other."
Peer Gynt in Norwegian culture
If you lie, are you real?
Peer Gynt is a Norwegian folk tale that permeates the culture. The Peer Gynt Sculpture Park in Oslo, created in honour of Henrik Ibsen, is a monumental presentation of Peer Gynt, scene by scene.
Internationally respected Norwegian Ibsen translator and dramaturg, May-Brit Akerholt joins us as consultant. She draws on her own production of Peer Gynt.
Edvard Munch's art was inspired by theatre. He depicted many scenes from the plays of Ibsen and drew the program poster for the Paris production of Peer Gynt showing the two women - Solveig and Aase.
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