"The Poet & the Bishop's Daughter"
The 17th century old true Icelandic story.
A story about true friendship between the greatest Icelandic poet Hallgrimur Petursson and Ragnheidur the Bishop's daughter, which was 28 years younger then him. Friendship between men and women, is it possible? Was it possible? Yes, it is and it was... Yes! And their friendship was not a myth! Friendship had never been that strong, Love had never been so blind! Life choices had never been so difficult... Was death an answer or destiny?
"The Poet and the Bishop's daughter"
"Skáldið og Biskupsdóttirin"
Opera drama in II acts
Music by : Alexandra Chernyshova
Libretto by :Guðrún Ásmundsdóttir
Year of creation : 2014
Years of working on the opera :
Story and libretto, 5 years
Music and orchestration, 3 years
The opera “The Poet and the Bishop’s daughter” was performed in Hvalfjörður & Reykjavik (Iceland), Moscow (Russia), Kyiv (Ukraine) & Tokyo (Japan)
In 2015 Alexandra also published "The Vocal Library" Music Vocal Book -14 arias, duets, trios and choirs with piano accompaniment.
Opera written for the symphony orchestra, 10 solo singers, one actress, mixed choir, men choir, women choir. Concert premiere of this opera with camera orchestra was held on the 11th & 12th of April 2014 in Iceland, sang and played in Icelandic language (original)
Asgeir Pall Agustsson | bariton |
Ragnheidur, Bishop's daughter
Alexandra Chernyshova | lyric / coloratura soprano |
Þorgerdur Sol Ivarsdottir | soprano |
Brynjolfur Bishop of Iceland
Kristjan Johannsson | tenor |
Margret Bishop´s wife
Elsa Waage | contralto |
Egill Arni Palsson | tenor |
Isabella Dagrun Leifsdottir | soprano |
Hanna Dora Gudbransdottir | soprano |
Margret Einarsdottir | soprano |
Þorhallur Bardarson | bariton |
Gudrun Asmundsdottir | actress |
Alexander Logi Jonsson | boy |
Sigrun Lilja Einarsdottir | woman |
Hallgrimskirkja choir i Saurbæ.
2015 - premiere concert of the Music Vocal Book "The Poet & the Bishops daughter" at Kaldalón, Harpa, Iceland.
2016 - premiere "The Poet & the Bishops daughter"at Gnessin Music Academy, Moscow, Russia
2017 - presentation of the Music Vocal Book "The Poet & the Bishops daughter" at Mie Music Festival & Tokyo, Japan and Icelandic cultural center in Copenhagen, Denmark.
2018- premiere "The Poet & the Bishops daughter"at Kiev Taras Shevchenko National University, Ukraine. Celebration of 150 years of Kiev R.Glier High Music Institute.
2019 - presentation of the Music Vocal Book "The Poet & the Bishops daughter" at St.Petersburg, Russia.
2020 - 1 prize at the International Composer Competition by Isaak Dunajevskiy in Moscow, Russia
The Opera "Poet and Bishop's Daughter" is built on Historical truth, where it tells about a Bishop in Skálholt in the 17th century who demanded that his daughter would swear an oath (in front of all the highest clergy in Iceland attending in the church) that she was a virgin and had never been touched by any male. For the daughter it was a great humiliation.
She was only 19 years old when this event happened. Nobody in Iceland knows the truth in this story although nearly every Icelander in the present age knows the tragedy that happened in the Bishop's place 400 years ago. 9 months after Ragnheiður, the Bishop's daughter had been swearing the oath in the church of Skálholt, she gave birth to a boy who was taken out of her arms two months after birth. Four men from the Bishop's place came and carried out that brutal action, and in desperation she ran after the men who carried her baby and threw herself into a Glacier river which they had passed on their horses holding her baby. Some men on the farm saw what was happening and got her from the cold river and two weeks later she had to be in the Bishop's place to attend a sermon where she had to do a ceremony again in front of all the clergy in Skálholt where she should repent for her sins.
In old documents that event is described, and there is written: the person who has sinned so badly should come to the church naked to the waist and lie on the church floor with face towards the stone floor, arms stretched out, and in that position she should lie the whole ceremony (which meant two hours) After this humiliation she should write her name with witnesses confirming that she had repented and now she had the right of inheritance her fathers wealth, which was was a fortune as he was the richest man living in Iceland at that time. What had this young girl to do with all this fortune? Because two months after this incident she died only twenty two years old.
Libretto | "The Poet & The Bishop's Daughter" by Gudrun Asmundsdottir
Act I - The storyteller stands in the middle of the stage behind him is a picture of the present Church of Skálholt (which is still The Bishop's residence.) The storyteller stands in front of the church and says to the audience: "Here it is said that the Bishop's daughter Ragnheiður is buried, the girl nearly every Icelander has the greatest sympathy for although 400 years have passed since she died. And here is still a stone which is said that she used to come out alone in the light summer night, she used to sit here as long as she could come out, because of her illness. She wanted to be alone and hear the birds sing their early morning songs, the 22 year old girl living her last days on earth. Ragnheiður comes to the storyteller in his dream the storyteller tells her he wants to tell the story of her life. So many have done it, but he wants to tell the story once more. Tell them, sings Ragnheiður, about the time I was the happiest girl on earth. Loved by a powerful father, who would give me everything I wished for.
(In comes a lady with bed sheets and starts to make the bed for a little girl who comes with her on the stage holding her pillow and above them comes a picture of a little girl standing on her bed like she is talking to somebody)
The Bishop comes on the stage asking the daughter if it was really necessary for him to leave a very important meeting to come and talk to her. Then comes a loving scene with father an a little daughter. After that comes on the stage a man dirty and the clothes hanging around him, he has been walking all the way from the west end of Reykjanes peninsula, passing lava and rivers to be able to get to Skálholt to ask The Bishop for help as he was being badly treated where he had been working as the ploughman although he had education to be a priest. The Bishop looked at this man as his friend and knew that his ill fortune became because he had committed adultery having a child with a low class woman he loved. Icelanders judged him and his wife and bureaucrats in high and low position found for their enjoyment that they could treat this man as he had committed a crime. But not the Bishop of Skálholt he knew what a marvelous man he was.
The Bishop did not know at that point of the story that this man would later on write the greatest literature Iceland ever owned "The passion psalms" by Hallgrimur Pétursson. The Bishop receives his friend in his beggars outfits and orders his people (The choir) To take of his beggars outfit and dress him up as a Nobelman. And after that he would ordain him as a priest. And as he comes out of that treatment Hallgrímur askes if he could see his best friend. And that is Ragnheiður the Bishop's daughter. They wake up the little girl who is sleeping in her bed. And the happiness is deep as she sees the friend she loves most.
This Opera is about friendship. It is known from old documents that Hallgrimur gives his dear friend the first document handwritten of the Passion Salms. She is only 19 years old and he is about 50. He is fighting leprosy the terrible disease but he gives this treasure to his best friend before the tragedy, the oath and childbirth and the loss of the baby. So the first act of the Opera. Is a happy young woman and her best friend visiting her and in his third visit he gives her the document of the Passion salms after she has told him about her love for Daði she has intended to marry. She starts to read the document he has given to her. And this bright young woman realises who he is, the greatest poet and a holy man. And before the interval she kneels before him and washes his injured foot and kisses his wounds.
Then comes the Act II and there We have the great tragedy which is told before. But the Holy thing in all this is, we can see in old documents that Hallgrímur who lives far away from Skálholt, is told that Ragnheiður is ill and probably dying. He walks all the way to Skálholt and we can see that he comes to her 2 days before she dies. That is what friends do. We hear that our best friends is dying, and we come to them wherever we are.