HCA NEWS Honorary tribute at the Royal Theatre

With the performance Horse-radish Soup and Stuffed Cabbage, sponsored by the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Foundation, the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen marks on 1 April 2005 the beginning of their celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen. The cast features, among others, actresses Kirsten Olesen and Bodil Jørgensen and actor Kurt Ravn.

By Mikkel Stjernberg - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 18 March 2004

The Royal Theatre embarks on the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen with the performance Horse-radish Soup and Stuffed Cabbage. The performance celebrates the Danish storyteller by embracing the arts so closely associated with Hans Christian Andersen: drama, mime, song, dance, music and vaudeville.

The world premiere will take place at the Royal Theatre Old Stage on 1 April 2005 featuring, among others, actresses Kirsten Olesen and Bodil Jørgensen and actor Kurt Ravn. The Royal Theatre has been fortunate enough to assign one of Scandinavia's leading directors, Swedish Lars Rudolfsson, to stage this enchanted fairytale that draws on characters, themes and texts by Hans Christian Andersen. Together with the costume designer Kersti Vitali and the composer Savannah Agger, he is to set the stage for actors, soloist singers, a women's choir, dancers, vaudeville artists, mimes and musicians, all evoking the world of Hans Christian Andersen.

The title refers to Andersen's fairytale The Storm Shakes the Shield, in which a terrible storm one day blows things about in town, such as the weathercock, a sentry box and the barber's and fishmonger's shop signs.

But something else happened too:

"The eating-house keeper's bill of fare, which had hung at his door in a heavy frame, was posted by the storm over the entrance to the theatre, where nobody went. It was a ridiculous list - 'horse-radish soup and stuffed cabbage'. And now people came in plenty!"

Andersen's own theatre
The Royal Theatre held special significance to Hans Christian Andersen throughout his life - and was the aim of many of his dreams. This was the place where he wanted to be, but wasn't allowed. Yet this was also where he spent much of his life.

Hans Christian Andersen ventured the long distance from Odense to Copenhagen solely to be close to the Royal Theatre. It was a great moment when he finally succeeded in getting his name on the billboard at the tender age of 16. In The Fairy Tale of My Life, Hans Christian Andersen wrote:

"It was a climax of my life when my name stood in print; a nimbus of immortality seemed to lie within. While at home I had to view the printed letters. I brought the ballet programme with me to bed in the evening and would lie in the light staring at my name. Putting it away only to bring it forth again. It was bliss!" However, it was not quite such bliss for the audience.

In fact, the performance was all but chortled off the stage. Andersen's part? He played the troll that was to be crushed under the boulders, but had the misfortune of slipping into a crevice where he was forced to lie until the curtain fell!

Hans Christian Andersen attempted a career as dancer, actor and singer, but in 1822 he was told by the theatre that he was no longer wanted. This caused Andersen to seek to become a dramatist, so he solicited Theatre Director Rahbek with his kitschy, over-strung but also quite innocent dramatisation of a German short story, Skovcapellet (The Forest Chapel).

Not before 1829 did Hans Christian Andersen debut at the Royal Theatre with the so-called heroic vaudeville: Love in Saint Nicholai Church Tower. The amusing text adopts a meta-level that involves the audience in this parody of a chivalric epic set in the Copenhagen of Andersen's day. The vaudeville deals with the forbidden love between the daughter of the churchwarden and her boyfriend, the tailor's apprentice Søren Pind.

In all, Hans Christian Andersen wrote between 30 and 50 pieces of drama - a number that varies depending on whether you include adaptations/translations and short excerpts from larger works created for gala performances, etc. The vast majority of these works were premiered at the Royal Theatre, others at the Casino Theatre in Copenhagen.

Throughout his life, whenever Hans Christian Andersen was in Copenhagen, he frequented the seat reserved for him at the Royal Theatre. On his 70th birthday in 1875, a gala performance was held at the Royal Theatre in his honour, yet in May the same year the enfeebled old poet visited the theatre for the last time. He fell asleep during the performance.

Great experience
The Swedish director Lars Rudolfsson's experience embraces mime and circus as well as musicals, theatre and opera. He is famed and acclaimed for his staging in Sweden, most recently of the Finnish national epic Kalevala at the Stockholm City Theatre, Stockholms Stadsteater, and the touching dance and mime performance DC 3 at the Orion Theatre in Stockholm about the Swedish aircraft shot down over the Soviet Union in 1952. Over the years, he has directed performances at the stages where he has been artistic director, i.e. the Orion Theatre and the Malmö Music Theatre, and at the Stockholm City Theatre, the Folkoperan in Stockholm, the Gothenburg Opera and the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm.

In 1995, he directed the world premiere at Malmö Music Theatre of Kristina från Duvemåla - Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus' musical rendition of Vilhelm Moberg's The Emigrants. For this performance he received the Swedish Golden Mask Award for best direction. Furthermore, Lars Rudolfsson has worked with Cirkus Cirkör, the internationally acclaimed Swedish new-circus.

The costume designer Kersti Vitali has been a close partner of Lars Rudolfsson for many years. Additionally, she has worked with the director Ragnar Lyth and created costumes for Katrine Wiedemann's staging of Romeo and Juliet at the National Swedish Theatre, Dramaten, in 2002. For feature films, Kersti Vitali has designed costumes for, among others, Rumle Hammerich's Black Lucia and most recently the triple Golden Tray Award winner Evil by Mikael Håfström.

Director and set design: Lars Rudolfsson
Costume design: Kersti Vitali
Composer: Savannah Agger
Lighting design: Anders Rosenquist

Helle Fagralid
Peter Gilsfort
Nicolai Dahl Hamilton
Bodil Jørgensen
Kirsten Olesen
Kurt Ravn
Singers from the Royal Danish Opera, dancers, etc.

Performance days:
1/4, 6/4, 8/4, 10/4, 12/4, 14/4, 15/4, 16/4, 18/4, 20/4, 27/4, 28/4, 29/4 2005.