Alexander Polzin, Peer Gynt I, 2011 (detail) View full image

Peer Gynt: A Geography of Lies

Alexander Polzin, Eivind Aadland

This project presents a wonderful opportunity for me to bring together my life-long relationship with Grieg’s music, and my passion for the visual arts. Although Grieg described it as 'the most unmusical of all subjects', it made him produce his most colourful and exciting orchestral score

Eivind Aadland

This unique creative project, originally conceived by Maestro Arts, has been developed by Norwegian conductor and art collector Eivind Aadland and German visual artist Alexander Polzin. It was commissioned by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra to commemorate 200 years of Norwegian independence and its own 250th Jubilee.

At the heart of the project is an original selection of music from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt. Based on the text from Ibsen's play, Polzin has created a visualisation so that the audience feel that Peer Gynt's dreams and fantasies are emanating from his mind. Polzin’s work is not an illustration of the story – rather it challenges the audience and raises questions of universal character.

Grieg: Peer Gynt (trailer)

Drawing on the fairy tale, Henrik Ibsen wrote this five-act play in 1867. He based its plot loosely on the original story, whilst making the scenes move within time and space and between reality and fantasy. We follow the life of the eponymous protagonist, from his youth in the first act to his apparent death at the end of the fifth. Peer Gynt is a bragger, a brawler and a womaniser who lives a life of avoidance, and yet is still loved by his mother, who is shamed by his behaviour. Despite the hero’s apparent recognition of his selfish and even cruel ways, he shows no inclination to mend his ways.

Written in the Dano-Norwegian language, Peer Gynt has become famous across the world, and is the most widely-performed Norwegian play. Klaus Van Den Berg says of it that “the cinematic script blends poetry with social satire and realistic scenes with surreal ones”.

Peer Gynt, op.23, was composed in 1875 by Edvard Grieg, another Norwegian, as the incidental music to Ibsen's 1867 play, and had its premiere on 24 February 1876 in Christiania (now Oslo).

Alexander Polzin, Peer Gynt II, 66.5 x 86.5 cm, Oil on Board
© Alexander Polzin

Ibsen’s masterful text seems to cry out for images and ‘cinematic’ visualisation. I believe that a synthesis between Alexander’s creativity, Ibsen’s masterful drama and Grieg’s rich orchestral score will offer an opportunity for a new and fresh look at Peer Gynt.

Eivind Aadland

In creating the ideas for this I was inspired by Samuel Beckett - specifically his play Krapp’s Last Tape. I see this piece as happening from the perspective of Peer Gynt as an ageing man reflecting on, or reliving in some strange way, the adventures of his younger self.

Alexander Polzin

Creative Team

Visual concept: Alexander Polzin in association with Eivind Aadland
Text: Henrik Ibsen
Animation: Claudia Rohrmoser, Benjamin Hohnheiser
Designer: Nicola Minssen