Operafest Røykenvik: An event worthy of a standing ovation
By Celina Tran | Photos: Rune Goddokken
With luminaries like Jack Swanson, Giani Lincan, and Katherine Henly gracing this year’s programme, Operafest Røykenvik is back and better than ever. Whether you’re new to the world of opera, looking to dip your toes in an aria or two, or a seasoned enthusiast, this world-class opera festival in Hadeland, Norway, is an event for you.
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘opera’? Do you envision costumed performers on grand stages, belting out dramatic melodies? Perhaps you associate it with the glamour and glitz often linked to the art form, or maybe you don’t think of anything at all. No matter, because Operafest Røykenvik is an event that seeks to introduce the art of opera to everyone.
“I want to make opera more attractive and accessible to everyone, inviting new audiences from all backgrounds down this cultural rabbit hole,” Operafest’s artistic leader and founder, singer and soloist, Eli Kristin Hanssveen says.
“Opera was once the pop music of the world, and we want to demonstrate precisely why to modern audiences. Our goal is to raise the bar to the roof and leave people utterly amazed.”
Harmonies against breathtaking backdrops
Once again, Operafest extends a warm invitation to both new and returning guests to Hadeland, promising not just musical delights and entertainment but also an exploration of the local cuisine and surroundings.
“Our entertainment is of world-class quality, but the event is very much rooted locally, with local food and culture,” says Hanssveen.
With arrangements such as Opera på Låven, or “Opera in the barn”, guests get to enjoy an exclusive, yet cosy performance paired with local culinary excellence. In addition, local delicacies and dishes will be available throughout the festival, before, during, and after the music performances.
In addition to showing off the area’s cuisine, Operafest hopes to encourage appreciation for Hadeland’s lush, green municipalities.
“There’s really no better way of experiencing music than outdoors, so all our concerts will take place outside,” says Elin Dotseth, manager and producer at Operafest Røykenvik.
This year, the great outdoors will also see the return of the successful Sunrise Concert. Set atop Lyngnasæter, which overlooks a beautiful lake, the concert starts at 5AM. The audience are given the chance to bear witness to the sun’s rise in the horizon as they listen to talented musicians and singers. Additionally, this year’s festival will debut the very first Midnight Concert at Northern Europe’s largest solar observatory. Here, guests may enjoy powerful opera performances while gazing at the incredible, starry night.
The main event, too, will unfold against a picturesque backdrop, with the main stage floating on a serene lake that rolls into large Norwegian mountains. There, The Opera Gala will feature amazing Norwegian and international artists such as Katherine Henly, Jack Swanson, Gunda-Marie Bruce, and of course their very own Eli Kristin Hanssveen, all bound to impress.
World-class music with deep, local roots. While this international event aims to attract opera enthusiasts from all corners of the world, it is particularly essential for Operafest that the festival benefits the local community of Hadeland.
“One of our long-term goals is to introduce more culture to the area, which is why we’ll be having free concerts across the municipalities of Hadeland as well,” says Hanssveen.
As part of their local engagement, the opera festival also collaborates with cultural organisations to provide free opera classes to young artists through Akademi INPUT. Additionally, the festival includes events tailored for families and their young ones, with the aim of introducing children to opera and music in all genres in a fun and engaging way.
“One of our activities include a sing-along, ‘Trallsang’, led by young, local voices,” says Dotseth. “’Trall’ is a singing-app launched in 2022 by music educators at OsloMet, allowing people with and without pre-existing skills to learn singing.”
“Another very popular activity is ‘Opera Jukebox’, which will take place in an old chapel from the 1200s. Here, children get a unique opera experience as three soloists and a pianist are prepared to perform arias from the most famous operas, which the children can pick from a menu!”
“Opera Jukebox is a magical experience for children and adults alike,” adds Hanssveen. “The way the sound bounces through the chapel creates a very intimate experience. Last year, people left the grounds weeping, and we received lots of good feedback from both the singers and audiences alike.”
Finally, Hanssveen wants to stress that none of the above would be possible without all the dedicated volunteers, who year after year continue to make the festival a remarkable experience for everyone involved.
“There are so many people who give their time and skills for us to be able to give this cultural experience back to the local and international community, and we’re eternally grateful for that,” she says.
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