Fantastic new Venues in Copenhagen

With its canals, magnificent historic precincts, not to mention its great museums, Copenhagen is a dream city to visit and wander around. But all this was dwarfed by our fantastic musical experiences. First we attended a concert of the fabulous Vienna Philharmonic on a European tour in the brand new Konserthuset, a technologically advanced hall of the new style (designed by Jean Nouvel who designed Central Park on Broadway in Sydney), where the stage is just a little away from the centre of the hall, and where a huge convex mushroom baffle over the stage bounces the sound back equally to all parts of the hall whereever you sit. The stage is a kind of arena surrounded by the sloping walls of the elevated tiers of audience seats which help to push the sound up to the mushroom. Apparently the cost was huge and the Government ran out of money, as it’s pretty obvious from the cramped and inadequate foyers that have walls clad in painted chip board!

However the acoustics are superb and the concert equally so with a fabulous performance of Nielson’s 4th Symphony to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Denmark’s most famous composer. The most unusual aspect of the program was its conclusion, rather than its beginning, with a performance of Beethoven’s great Leonora Overture No 3. The applause for this was deafening, far more so than the Nielson, centre piece of the program. Good old Beethoven. The next night was a further step up with a visit to arguably the finest and most spectacular opera house in the world.

The story of the Royal Danish Theatre’s new opera house is worth telling briefly. The patriarch of the Danish shipping line Merckx decided some years ago that Copenhagen needed a new Opera House, so approached the government with an offer to commission and fund the building with two provisos, first that a small disused island in the harbour opposite the Amalienborg Palace be the site, and second that permanent funding to a sufficient level be provided by government. This enlightened deal has provided the city with a magnificent new opera house in a superb setting and is a splendid model for private/ public sector support for the arts!

We saw an amazing production of Verdi’s spectacular Sicilian Vespers in a joint production with Covent Garden by the acclaimed Norwegian director Stefan Herheim. It was updated from its 12th century origin to the time of its writng and set in the theatre in Paris where it had its premiere, substituting the original story with the real history of the merciless exploitation of theatre artists by French aristocrats at the time. Both the concept and its realisation were tours de force.

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