It all started, as many off-the-wall projects are wont to do, with an evening in the pub. The conversation veered to festivals – Coachella, Wilderness, Latitude – and how they increasingly blend high-end rock with other unashamedly high-end lifestyle activities. Just as we were rolling our eyes about yoga at dawn and inflatable camping furniture, the idea struck. Why is no-one doing a festival like this with opera?
So Mimì Goes Glamping was born – a festival in beautiful nature with opera, cabaret, speakers, yoga to Puccini (but not at dawn), fly-fishing, boating with troubadours … as we chewed our pens, the ideas surfed on a tide of Hansa. This was something new, a venture unique to Norway, which could celebrate the local, national, international, bring together tourism and culture, support rural development – my, we became suffused with our idealism and invention.
Soberly next morning we called our good brave friends Steinar and Yngve who run the stunning farm and venue at Åmot Operagård in Sunnfjord, a few hours North of Bergen, and whose reputation for beautifully run and generously hosted events is second to none. Yes, we could make this work together – we could share our skills and build a programme which would involve international artists along with local participants, would provide a fabulous mix of music with all kinds of activities in nature along with wonderful food.
The title, of course, should be explained. Deep in a meeting about the programme and the logistics, in the thick of explaining glamping to the hardy one-man-tent-an-ice-axe-and spare-socks aficionados around Grieghallen while the communications department, mildly bored, discussed an upcoming Puccini production, none of us noticed Alice, our stage-manager, standing in the doorway. ”I see” she said ”so Mimì Goes Glamping?”
It is, however, never easy to create a first, unless, of course you have endorsement from Sting or possibly Donald Trump. Media interest tends to be as thin as the over-comb on the latter´s skull. Opera, it seems to the press, is opera. It should be on a stage, with the audience – this a special breed – sitting politely in orderly rows. Then, simultaneously, we are pressed to be ’folkelig’, to develop a new audience, to be ’out there’ and away from urban stages. But Åmot´s local participants, who are involved in leading countryside runs, presenting a fantastic food and craft market and everything from fly-fishing masterclasses to yoga, have manifested an enthusiasm which is catching. Rachel Nicholls, currently one of the UK´s top divas and a Mimì Goes Glamping resident artist, is so excited that she and her husband are bringing bikes, and planning extra hiking. The Financial Times will devote its ’A Postcard from…’ column to the festival. Tickets are selling fast, and BNO staff are scanning, a little jumpily, the long-range weather forecast.
Not for sunshine you understand. For what on earth would a festival be without mud and wellies?
But looking at the programme, my heart flames. Baroque arias with the smell of woodsmoke drifting into lifting lines? Lilting rhythms at midnight from Bjarte Eike´s dancing fiddle? Steinar´s wonderful smile as he hands out a glass of champagne? Young singers’ sea shanties, as Ove Losnegård´s old sloop Bakkejekta glides along the fjord?
Baking along with tea songs? Eli Kristin singing Ella Fitzgerald, and Rachel performing Wagner?
I couldn´t miss it. And neither should you! http://www.mimigoesglamping.no