This one-woman play that presents an intimate portrait of the world famous Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962) is written and directed by Einar Bjørge (Norway, 2013) and features Norwegian actress Nina Bendiksen. Flagstad – Triumph and Tragedy utilizes rare recordings and newly released source material, including personal correspondence, to portray the woman called “the voice of the century.”
Highlighting key moments in Flagstad’s life and career, the play presents, in her own words, confessions and reflections never shared during her lifetime. Acclaimed when first performed June 2013 at The Flagstad Festival in Hamar – the soprano’s birth place – and later at the Oslo Opera Festival the play has since been performed at numerous venues in Norway. The New York premiere of Flagstad – Triumph and Tragedy marks the 80th anniversary of Flagstad’s February 1935 debut at the Metropolitan Opera, which launched her into international stardom.
*After the performance on Friday, February 27, playwright/director Einar Bjørge, actress Nina Bendiksen, and Robert Tuggle, Director of Archives for the Metropolitan Opera will further discuss the life and career of Kirsten Flagstad. A brief Q & A follows their discussion.
**Preceding the performance on Saturday, February 28, Annika Emilia Åsen, Director of The Kirsten Flagstad Museum, gives a lecture that spans from Flagstad’s small house in Hamar to some of the world’s greatest opera stages.
About the participants
Nina Bendiksen began her career as an actress in 1992 and has over the last 20 years been engaged at many major theaters in Norway, including Riksteatret, Hålogaland Teater, Hordaland Teater, and Oslo Nye Teater.
She has produced and performed in productions such as Auxocrom-Cromofor (1997; based on Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s diary), in connection with the exhibition of Frida Kahlo’s work at Henie-Onstad Art Center near Oslo; and Southbound – a tango performance where she toured in Norway in 2011 and 2012 with an ensemble of six Argentine musicians and dancers. Bendiksen still tours all over Norway and Argentina as a singer and dancer based on excerpts from this production.
Her film work includes Pelle the Policecar/Pelle politibil (2002), where she played the mother Kristine and Away for the Occasion (2007). Bendiksen also appears in Blue Skies/Himmelblå (2008), the successful NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting) TV drama based on the BBC production 2000 Acres of Sky (2001-2003). In August 2014 Bendiksen was invited to perform at the most important tango festival – Tango BA Festival y Mundial in Buenos Aires.
Playwright and director Einar Bjørge holds a Master of Arts degree with honors in Theater and Opera from the University of Oslo. He started his career as a theater director in 1986 with a production of The Little Prince based on the book by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. In 1996 he founded Oslo Project Theatre – an experimental theatre company for young actors in Norway.
Since directing The Little Prince, Bjørge has directed more than 80 theater and opera-productions. His recent work includes the operas La Traviata (2009), Carmen (2010), and Hansel and Gretchen (2011); the operetta Csárdásfürstin (2012); and Lanford Wilson’s play Burn This (2013). As a playwright, his other plays include Nijinsky (1990), Alive (2001), and Waiting for James Dean (2005).
His close collaboration with Liv Ullmann as assistant director includes the 2009 theater production of Streetcar Named Desire with Cate Blanchett as Blanche, which traveled to Sydney, Washington, D.C., and New York; and Uncle Vanya in Oslo (2013).
From 2007-2012 Bjørge worked as repertoire advisor for Oslo Opera Festival; in 2009 he became a Member of the Board and an artistic representative of the Festival. He worked as artistic director for The International Ibsen Award from 2008-2011, advising the jury on candidates and nominees from all over the world.
Critically acclaimed for his work, Bjørge was awarded the Jury Special Prize in 1997 for the text and production of Callas – La Divina – a one-woman play about Maria Callas. He has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards for young artists from the Norwegian government (1999-2001) and later for established artists (2009).
In October 2014 Bjørge directed Bellini’s I Puritani for the 2014 Oslo Opera Festival, where he also serves as artistic adviser to the Board. In 2015-16 he will again collaborate with Liv Ullmann on the world premiere of a yet to-be-announced theater project at the National Theater in Oslo.
Robert Tuggle is the Director of Archives for the Metropolitan Opera. An expert on opera and great voices, he is the author of The Golden Age of Opera (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983) and has served as a contributing and consulting editor of The Opera Quarterly (Oxford University Press). He is currently working on a biography.
A native of Virginia, Tuggle studied musicology at Princeton University and wrote a thesis on early Giuseppe Verdi. He then worked as Director of Education for the Metropolitan Opera Guild for 20 years, before assuming his present position in 1981. As the Director of Archives, Tuggle oversees a uniquely rich and valuable resource documenting the entire history of the Metropolitan Opera. The holdings of the archives include correspondence, programs, playbills, contracts, pay books, photographs, costumes, memorabilia, realia, and many other materials that are invaluable to a researcher.