Harald Viking


January 18, 2022

Harald Viking is a Swedish opera in three acts with music by Andreas Hallén and libretto by Hans Herrig. The opera was first performed on October 16, 1881 in Leipzig.


During his studies in Germany, Hallén became a great enthusiast of Richard Wagner's operas. Through his longer stay abroad in the 1870s and 1880s, Hallén acquired an international orientation that was less common among contemporary Swedish composers. The successes during his studies in Germany also aroused thoughts in Hallén about making a musical career there. In 1872, he returned to his hometown of Gothenburg, where he tried his luck as a conductor at a music association set up by himself. After six years, Hallén traveled back to Germany in 1878, now to Berlin, where he established himself as a singing teacher and music writer. During this stay in Berlin, Hallén met his musical destiny: to be overwhelmed by the Wagnerian musical drama as a stage and musical creation. Together with Hans Herrig (German jurist, Scandinavian connoisseur, playwright and also great Wagnerian propagandist) he planned the opera Harald der Wiking. of an old Nordic folktale. Hallén's opera was originally named after Oehlenschläger's play, but when it became known that the Hungarian Ödön Mihalovich had already used the title for an opera with the same subject, Hallén and Herrig renamed the main characters in their work Harald and Siegrun. The premiere took place in Leipzig on October 16, 1881 and it was thanks to no less than Franz Liszt's mediation that the opera came on stage. Hallen acknowledged by dedicating his second orchestral rhapsody to Liszt. Hallén himself had led the driving study and the set, and the cast was, according to Hallén himself, "the best possible". The director was Angelo Neumann and the conductor was the conductor of the Leipzig Opera, Arthur Nikisch. When Hallén returned to Sweden at the end of 1881, he had developed into a devoted Wagnerian and soon ended up in the middle of an ongoing "Wagner battle". Between 1865-76, several of Wagner's musical dramas had been staged at the Stockholm Opera in carefully conducted rehearsals (Rienzi, The Flying Dutchman, Lohengrin and Tannhäuser). But even the traditional repertoire had a strong foothold on the opera stage with works by Mozart, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Gounod and Bizet. The road to the Swedish national stage became quite short; As early as 18 February 1884, the opera was staged at the Gustavian Opera House in Stockholm with the Swedish title Harald Viking, translated by Adolf Lindgren. It was performed a total of 15 times until 1912. During the 1880s, the Wagner debate took off in earnest, with an impenetrable mix of musical and ideological positions. Harald Viking somehow became a post in this debate. Halldén also fired up with a time-typical, aggressive polemical tone in a series of articles, where he spoke warmly for the Wagnerian musical drama.


In Harald Viking there are a large number of so-called leitmotifs, ie "follow-up motifs" of the kind that have been a common feature in opera music since at least the 18th century, but which in Wagner developed into a kind of musical-dramatic "characters", musical motifs with whose help different elements of the plot could be associated with each other and given a multidimensional meaning. It could be about people, emotions, situations or objects with a symbolic meaning. In his leitmotif-elaborated style, Hallén has been influenced by the late Wagner, but there are also Swedish national romantic features, for example in the first act's party scenes. Hallén spins in Harald Viking a dense web of such motifs: A "Viking" or "dragon ship" motif is first presented in the opera's prelude; in the final scene it occurs in Harald's first sun

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