Saturday, 17 August 2013

A vocally and visually great Don Carlo from Salzburg

Jonas Kaufmann in the title role.

Almost all recent Salzburg Festival opera productions have been "modernized" versions, mainly enjoyable as radio broadcasts. When somebody - in this case the legendary director Peter Stein - dares to make a traditional staging, some of the critics cannot stand it:

The Salzburg Festival’s new Don Carlo staging is an object lesson in sumptuous emptiness. Throwing everything that money can buy at a production is no guarantee of excellence. Peter Stein, who has been sinking ever further into his own conservatism in recent years, has outdone himself in cringe-inducing dullness with this production. So diligently does he strive for authenticity that you can almost smell the mothballs; it is a wonder the whole thing does not crumble at the touch.
The costumes are historical, the poses are borrowed from period stage sketches, the detail is extravagant. Ferdinand Wögerbauer’s sets look alarmingly like something dug from the bottom of a cornflakes packet, and the little things that go wrong are almost legion enough to supply the missing entertainment value.

Fortunately, the audience - and quite a few other reviewers - disagreed. On the television screen (as broadcast by ARTE last night) Stein's production was hugely enjoyable. It was a vocally and visually stunning evening of great Verdi music. Thank you Peter Stein, Ferdinand Wögerbauer (sets) for daring to challenge the "modernizers"!

The star-studded cast, with Jonas Kaufmann in the titel role, Anja Harteros as ElisabettaThomas Hampson as Rodrigo and Matti Salminen (still in fine voice at 68!) as Filippo, of course, also should be thanked. And the Vienna Philharmonic under Antonio Pappano, as well as the fine chorus, should not be forgotten either.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Trolle-Ljungby - A Magnificent Renaissance Castle in Scania

Trolle-Ljungby, close to the city of Kristianstad in north-eastern Scania, is one of the most magnificent Renaissance castles in Sweden. In the Middle Ages it was a fortified manor house, owned by the Danish Bille family (Scania was at the time part of Denmark). The present castle was erected in 1629. The west wing was added four years later, and the east wing was built in 1787.

The current owners of the castle are count Hans-Gabriel Trolle-Wachtmeister and his wife, countess Alice Trolle-Wachtmeister, the Swedish Mistress of the Robes.

Two remarkable items at the castle are the “Ljungby horn and pipe” which are on display on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the summertime in a window facing the castle courtyard . Legend tells how these remarkable items found their way to Trolle-Ljungby castle.

The Troll Stone (in the last picture) lies a couple of kilometres away from the castle.
 Legend has it that the large stone, which lies right up next to a building, is connected with the “Ljungby horn and pipe”. It was here, at the site of the Troll Stone, that the horn and pipe were stolen from the troll who lived under the stone.

A beautiful medieval church is located in the immediate vicinity of the castle.



The cruise ferry Stena Vision leaving Karlskrona

 The Stena Line cruise ferry Stena Vision is here leaving the port of Karlskrona on its way to  Gdynia in Poland. The ferry was launched in August 1981 as the Stena Scandinavica. However, due to problems at the construction yard, completion was delayed and it wasn't until 1987 that she entered service. The Stena Vision has a passenger capacity of 1700, and it can carry up to 460 cars.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

The Naval Port of Karlskrona - A Unique UNESCO World Heritage site

"Karlskrona is an exceptionally well preserved example of a European planned naval town, which incorporates elements derived from earlier establishments in other countries and which was in its turn to serve as the model for subsequent towns with similar functions.  Naval bases played an important role in the centuries during which naval power was a determining factor in European Realpolitik, and Karlskrona is the best preserved and most complete of those that survive."

Justification for including the Naval port of Karlskrona as a UNESCO World Heritage site

For anybody interested in naval history, and ships in general, a visit to the Swedish Naval port of Karlskrona is highly recommended. The UNESCO World Heritage list description is a good introduction to the history of this unique naval center:

The naval port of Karlskrona was founded in 1680, at a time when Sweden was a major power whose territory included modern Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and parts of north Germany. The first step towards domination of the Baltic came when Sweden secured direct access to the North Sea ports and broke Danish control over Öresund Sound, the key to Baltic trade. When peace with Denmark was declared in 1658 with the Treaty of Roskilde, Skåne, Blekinge, and Gotland became Swedish territory.
A garrison and shipyard were installed at the small port of Bodekull, renamed Karlshamn in honour of King Karl XI. However, after a short Danish occupation (1676-79), it was recognized that this was not the ideal site for a naval base, and so in 1680 Karl XI issued a charter for the foundation of a new town in the east of Blekinge on the islands of Wämö and Trossö, to be known as Karlskrona and to serve both as a port and as a naval base. Tradesmen and merchants from this hitherto Danish area were forced into the new town by the withdrawal of their charters from the established towns of Kristianopel and Ronneby, and the region was progressively assimilated into Sweden.
The naval installations that developed at Karlskrona, beginning with a shipyard and storage facilities, were initially supervised by Erik Dahlbergh, Quartermaster General, responsible for the defences of the Swedish kingdom. Naval architects and craftsmen were sent from Stockholm, and houses were built to receive them. The shipyard began with two building berths, two quays, two forges, and five warehouses; the first keel was laid down in December 1680 and the first ship was launched the following year.
Karlskrona became a seat of government in 1683, the year in which Dahlbergh drew up the definitive plans for the town and its fortifications. By the time Gustav III took the throne by means of a coup d'état in 1772 it had become the third largest town in Sweden. There was a frenzied burst of activity at this time, with the building of a large fleet (accompanied by renewed building activity in the town itself) aimed first at Denmark and then Russia. Gustav's military adventures achieved very little, and he was assassinated by his political enemies among the nobility, who resented his assumption of absolute power. The loss of Finland in 1809 saw the end of the Swedish imperial dream.
Despite the political decline of the country, Karlskrona continued as the main base for the Swedish navy. A number of modernization and expansion projects took place during the 19th and 20th centuries, to keep pace with developments in naval and military tactics and technology (although the shipyard was slow to adopt new technologies, with the result that wooden hulls did not give way to steel until the 1880s). World War II saw the modernization of some of the older fortifications and the installation of new facilities for defence against aerial attack. Since that time there has been a progressive diminution of activity in the naval area, though it still plays an active role in the Swedish defence system. The town has been damaged by fire, most severely in 1790. As a result, rebuilding of the destroyed buildings, numbering over 400, was carried out using stone. However, the original street layout was largely preserved.

The naval harbour is a fascinating mix of historic buildings  and
contemporary marine technology.

Many of the historic naval shipyard buildings are architectural masterpieces.
Old and new side by side.

The Royal Swedish Navy's Corvette Harnosand K33 (launched
in 2004) is probably in for service or refitting.

The corvette K12 Malmo was launched already in 1986.

One of the Royal Swedish Navy's high speed boats on its way to the
Karlskrona archipelago.
If you are not able to board one of the navy ships, you can visit the nearby fortress
 islands on board the Blekinge, the oldest Swedish passenger ship still in service.

The naval fortress at Drottningskär on the island of Aspö is an architectural masterpiece from
the Swedish Great Power period. It was an effective defense for the western side of the main fairway 
to Karlskrona. 

At some stage the commander of the fortress wanted a more comfortable place
to live in when on duty. The navy built this nice red cottage for him.

The main entrance seen through the bell "tower".

Part of the facade facing the sea.

The main walls are about five meters thick.

The Kungsholmen fortress was built to protect the
eastern side of the fairway. It is still partially used by
the Navy.

The fully rigged navy training ship  Jarramas was the last tall ship built
at the Karlskrona navy shipyard. 

The Jarramas is now one of the attractions at the excellent Naval Museum.

The retired missile boat Västervik R136 is also on display at the Naval Museum.

The Naval Museum has a fine Collection of figureheads.

Some of the museum collections are housed in these buildings.

A collection of traditional wooden boats at the Naval Museum.

The magnificnt Admiralty Church, built in 1685, is the largest wooden church in
Sweden. It was supposed to be a temporary building, but its replacement was
never built.

The Admiralty Church seen from the sea.

This wooden statue, depicting ex-constable Matts Rosenbom, who froze to death on New Year's Eve in 1717, is perhaps the most beloved of all the statues in Karlskrona. Rosenbom was found in the morning with his hand outstretched, his hat pulled over his ears, and a beggar's bundle on his back.  Since then, the wooden  Rosenbom has tipped his hat to all who give alms to the poor.

Gilbert Sheldon was a prominent shipbuilder of British descent, who worked in Karlskrona.
His grandfather emigrated to Sweden in 1655.

Historic naval architecture on one of the islands.

The Swedish Coast Guard offices.

The Palace-like residence of the Governor of Blekinge county (center left).
A closer look at the Governor's Residence.

Historic waterfront buildings in central Karlskrona.

Many of the modern buildings mix well with the old houses.

Two Baroque churches, the Fredrikskyrka (shown here) and the Trefaldighetskyrka
 (also known as the German Church) dominate the city's main Square. Both churches
are designed by the famous architect of the time, Nicodemus Tessin the Younger.

A detail of the German Church.

A view of the main naval Island, Trossö.

One of the bridges connecting two of the main islands.

The shipyard workers lived in small huts in the direct vicinity of
the naval shipyard. The picturesque wooden houses are
well taken care of by their contemporary owners.

Window flowers in one of the wooden huts.

A row of colorful huts.

The decorative entrance to a former workers' hut.