Music by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)
English Lyrics, Translations and Comments
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s collaboration with Edvard Grieg was to include an opera, Olav Trygvason, the Viking king; however, when Grieg started composing the music to Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, a 16-year break developed between Bjørnson and the composer.
The opera was never completed, but Landkjenning still remains alive. The original score calls for male chorus, baritone soloist, band and organ.
May 17, 1872, was a memorable day as the world premier of Landkjenning took place at the Akershus Fortress in Oslo. The occasion was a fundraising bazaar held for the restoration of the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. Bjørnson had written the poem for this occasion, basing his text on Snorre Sturlason’s account of Olav Trygvason’s plan to build a church in Nidaros — the medieval name for Trondheim — upon his return to Norway in AD 995. Young Olav had become a Christian in England and wanted to bring Christianity to Norway. In his solo Olav expresses his faith in the Almighty, and his men reiterate his prayer in a rousing grand finale.
Norwegian composer Ragnar Søderlind and lyricist Knut Moe have completed the opera, Olav Trygvason, to the tune of NOK 11 million. The opening number of the opera is Landkjenning. The world premiere of the opera took place in Grieghallen on September 26, 2000, in Bergen, Norway. Bjørnson, winner of the 1903 Nobel Prize for literature, was Norway’s national poet.
And it was Olaf Trygvason, steering across the great North Sea,
Toward his youthful Kingdom not yet prepared for him.
Then his first impression: “What kind of a wall is this at the water’s edge?”