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A small Norwegian town's fairy-tale opera adventure an inspiration to anyone with an artsy dream

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Opera Nordfjord's magic Flute, as seen on the stage of the opera house in Oslo on Feb. 15 (Den Norske Opera & Ballet photo).
Opera Nordfjord’s Magic Flute, as seen on the stage of the opera house in Oslo on Feb. 15 (Den Norske Opera & Ballet photo).

A plucky couple in a small town — just 6,000 people — on the rugged west coast of Norway decided to start an opera company 15 years ago, and somehow managed to make their enterprise thrive. So much so that they were invited to present their Magic Flute at the opera house in Oslo. on Feb. 15, 16 and 17.

Gramophone magazine critic Andrew Mellor describes Opera Nordfjord’s result as a revelation: “I can say now that I’ve never seen a more canny, effective or fundamentally relevant Magic Flute in any opera house,” he writes in his inspirational account here.

There were some technical inconsistencies, as you would expect from anything that mixes amateurs and professionals, but what most of us look for is not technical accuracy but a deeper connection with the text, the characters and the music. And this is where the Nordfjorders appear to have excelled.

“What Opera Nordfjord nailed was the hard bit: delivering an original production that told the story through the prism of contemporary (and, to an extent, local) relevance, advancing the art form as much as the stuff on the Opera House’s main stage,” Mellor writes.

Great art is not the purview of multi-million-dollar budgets and long-established companies. It springs from fertile minds and imaginations. You can find them — and nurture them — even far away from the bright lights of a big city.

I checked out the Opera Nordfjord website, which isn’t available in English. The first thing I noticed is that these people are no musical theatre snobs: On Friday, they are presenting the Norwegian premiere of Hairspray, in a three-performance run.

John Terauds



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