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Norwegian opera may come to Twin Cities
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Knut Jorgen Moe and Nini Ritzau are trying to build support in the Twin Cities for a production of Olav Tryggvason, a Norwegian opera. (MPR Photo/Melanie Sommer)

St. Paul, Minn. — Some 130 years ago, Norwegian Edvard Grieg started composing music for an opera about Norway's famous Viking King Olav Tryggvason. But after a falling out with his text writer, work on the opera stopped.

A team of Norwegians finally completed the opera two years ago, and now they want to bring it to the Twin Cities next May. The show would be a scaled-back version of the opera, but they're hoping it will generate enough interest to justify bringing a full-scale touring production to Minnesota in 2005, the year Norway celebrates its centennial. Knut Jorgen Moe wrote the text to the Olav Tryggvason opera. He's spent the past week in the Twin Cities with his wife, Nini Ritzau, trying to drum up support for bringing it here. Moe says many Americans are familiar with the Viking hero because he was such an influential and charismatic man.

About Olav Tryggvason

One of the men who converted Norway to Christianity was Olav Tryggvason, perhaps the most fabled king in Norway's history, 'the most beautiful, the greatest and strongest and the most widely renowned athlete of all Norsemen,' according to Snorre Sturlason, writer of the Icelandic Prose Saga.

Olav reigned as king for five years, from 995 to 1000. King Olav's special prowess was running on the oars of a ship outside the hull. His life was a fable in itself. He was born on a small island, a mere rock, when his mother was fleeing from Norway to the east. Before he reached his uncle in Holmgard (now Novgorod in the U.S.S.R.) he was sold twice as a slave in Estonia -- first when he was three years old for a goat, and the second time for a good cloak. His guardian was killed because he was too old to become a slave. Later Olav met the murderer, and the nine-year-old struck him with his ax so that it remained stuck in his skull.

As soon as Olav was old enough he went west. He raided and slaughtered whenever he could -- Bornholm, Friesland, Germany and England were in his path. He killed people in the Scilly Isles too, but it was there that he was converted to Christianity. After this, he energetically converted Norway, slaying those who were unwilling to receive the Word of Christ. This is how he went about it in T√łnsberg, Norway's oldest town:

"King Olav had all these men gathered in a room and had it all well laid out; prepared a great feast for them and gave them strong drink; and when they were drunk Olav had the place set on fire and burned it and all the folk who were therein, except Oeyvind Kelde, who got away through the smoke hole." Fortunately he was captured and put on a rock on the west coast, Skratterskjaer, where he drowned slowly as the tide rose. In this manner Norway received the Christian faith.

(Source: Norway by Gunvald Opstand, Annabelle Despard and Ragnar Frislid)


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