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Classical music for all: the Norwegian example

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On August 15th I was in Bergen, Norway. It's the city where Grieg was born and he conducted the important Bergen Filharmoniske. I was walking through the main street when I saw an enormous stage where an orchestra was rehearsing. I saw on a big screen: "Tonight at 7pm - Bergen Filharmoniske - Peer Gynt by H.Ibsen and E.Grieg". Wow, I said. A free concert in the city center - I'll go. Peer Gynt is the quintessence of Norwegian culture: their best writer was Ibsen and their best musician Grieg. But I though: will people go and listen to it? Will be the square full at 7pm? I know that Peer Gynt (the whole drama, Grieg's op.23 and not the Suites) is a 3-hours-long work which, Wikipedia says, is difficult to perform because of its repentine scene changement.

I know that in Italy classical music is not very popular, concert halls are often empty, important orchestras have to go on only with public aids because they do not sell enough tickets. In Italy, it is thought, you cannot fill a square using classical music. You have to offere popular, simple music.

When I arrived in Torgellmeningen (so it is called Bergen's main street, if I spell Norwegian correctly) I found the square full of people of every age, including young people (it is often thought young people dislike classical music). I wondered. How is it possible? Then I understood. The Bergen Filharmoniske offered a show for all. People laughed at the actors' gags; dramatically listened at Åse's death; clapped their hands following the Norwegian folk rhythms of the wedding party; finally, listened with solemnity and, perhaps, faith at the final Pinsesalme (the Pentecost hymn) and at Solvejg's lullaby. I understood that Peer Gynt was something deeply belonging to Norwegian mentality and culture, and they listened to it as they had always known it. Furthermore, the orchestra played a reduced version of the work in order to not bore the audience (the concert lasted one hour and a half).

Bergen Filharmoniske actually got the right way to make classical music more friendly to all the people. Otherwise, in Italy, e.g., it is thought that classical music is a serious thing, too serious to be played in a square. I though: and if the Filarmonica della Scala go in Piazza del Duomo in Milan and play, I don't know, a Verdi's opera? I think the people would fill the square. They would overhear a music, think: "what's that?" and listen to it and also, perhaps, like and discover it. But, for the musical institutions, to achieve that it is necessary to lower themselves to the people's level, to think music in not as serious and majestic as it is in the theatres, that people do not have to wear jacket and tie to listen to a concert (as it is request at Scala): that music is for all, and not only for a superintelligent élite. People, I think, would answer. We have so much to learn from the Norwegians...