Tenor Placido Domingo is saying 'no, no, no' to Norway after festival organisers 'ran out of money'.
The world-famous artist, who once told American PBS his all-time favourite role was as Cavardossi in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’, was due to collect a prize worth almost 3 million kroner (over 505 thousand dollars) at next year’s Kirsten Flagstad festival in Hamar, Hedmark County.
Bjørn Simensen, ex Norwegian National Opera top dog and now the festival’s artistic director, says to The Foreigner “Domingo was chosen because he is the world’s only superstar in the opera world,” “He also hasn’t visited Oslo for about 20 years.”
2013 will mark 100 years since the soprano first debuted. She was famous for her performances of composer Richard Wagner’s operas.
Flagstad auditioned for New York’s Metropolitan Opera in Switzerland’s St. Moritz in 1934, was given a contract immediately, debuting in Wagner’s ‘Die Walküre’ the following year.
Having travelled back to Norway in 1941 to be reunited with her second husband, industrialist Henry Johansen, whom she married in 1930, Johansen’s membership of Norway’s fascist Nasjonal Samling (National Assembly) Party founded by former defence minister Vidkun Qvisling, were to dog her life.
Despite Flagstad having persuaded her spouse to resign, Johansen was arrested after WWII for profiteering during Germany’s occupation of Norway.
The soprano never became a National Assembly member, and refused to appear at arrangements organised by the Party. Nevertheless, her decision to move, together with her husband’s sympathies, meant she was blamed for having an un-national attitude.
Flagstad eventually moved back to the US in 1949, and resumed her career with the Met for its 1950-51 season but still encountered serious problems. Flagstad gave her last performance at the Met in 1952.
“She was harassed by the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, her passport was confiscated, and bank accounts frozen,” says festival artistic director Bjørn Simensen.
What was the idea behind the award to Domingo?
“We wanted to place Kirsten Flagstad up there with other famous Norwegians such as Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Munch, Edvard Grieg, and Niels Henrik Abel. We also think Norway should participate in honouring her, not least because of WWII.”
However, organisers have now had to drop giving Domingo the prize after Ministry of Culture officials denied them funding. It has also been confirmed Domingo will not be coming to Norway.
Why did the ministry turn the application down?
“The Ministry of Culture in general has a restrictive practice in funding new prizes, and it was not possible for the Ministry to fund this prize with the amount the festival applied for,” Deputy Culture Minister Kjersti Stenseng tells The Foreigner in an email. “The Ministry cannot take responsibility for the fact that the festival had established the prize, pointed out a winner and informed him of receiving the prize, without having funding for the prize.”
What things is the ministry doing, if any, to mark Kirsten Flagstad’s centenary debut?
“The Ministry can clearly see the importance of marking the centenary of Kirsten Flagstad’s debut as an opera singer, and several of the institutions that receive state funding will have special productions related to this occasion. The National Opera and Ballet and the National Library are among the institutions that will contribute to marking the centenary.”
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