Frontpage » News » Hedda and Nora Win Again, While Peer Rides Norway. Ibsen on the Worldís Stages in 2012

Hedda and Nora Win Again, While Peer Rides Norway. Ibsen on the Worldís Stages in 2012

By: Benedikte Berntzen

Historical Hedda: During 2012, 42 premieres of Hedda Gabler are registered. Of these, 11 productions were from USA. Here we see Ruth S. McCleskey as Hedda in Houston, Texas. Photo: Company OnStage.

What kind of Ibsen year was 2012? Every year, Henrik Ibsen is one of the world’s most performed dramatists. In the course of last year, 167 premieres of his plays were registered, and all six continents are represented in’s survey. USA, Norway and Germany are the leading Ibsen nations, with respectively 32, 23 and 20 premieres in the past year. The ultimate winner in the world’s theatres was the continuously fascinating Hedda Tesman.

In Ibsen´s text of 1890 there is a line which says: “The lovely Hedda Gabler. She, who was surrounded by so many admirers", and we understand that the main character in one of the world’s most performed plays, is not just anybody. Ibsen described her as a distinguished figure, but by some critics she is called an unfeminine monstrosity, and is both captivating and frightening in her continually calculating drive towards her own ruin. According to herself, Hedda has only got one talent: to bore herself to death. But the world’s theatre audiences cannot be said to be bored by Hedda, as there were no less than 42 premieres of this play in 2012, among other places, in Australia, France, Spain, Mozambique, South-Africa and South-Korea. It is more than possible that Hedda Gabler was the world’s most performed play altogether in 2012.

Political Hedda: In Mozambique, Hedda Gabler was called The General’s Daughter, and the action was set to the country’s revolution in the 1970s, when warfare led to the country’s state of independence. Photo: Mutumbela Gogo.

Tragic dilemma
33 premieres of Ibsen’s universal success A Doll’s House was registered in 2012. Nora slamming the gate behind her could be heard both in Tennessee and Hong Kong. In many countries, the play is merely called Nora, after she who has lived by doing tricks for her husband, but who leaves their home to find out about herself and the world around her; after he has told her she doesn’t understand the society she lives in. Last summer, A Doll’s House was produced at The Young Vic in London, in a new version by Simon Stephens. There were 39 performances of the production, which had a real baby on stage. This made the reviewer in The Telegraphask whether only a monster could leave such a defenceless creature, only to conclude that this is possible if you find yourself stuck in a tragic dilemma. The production is nominated in two categories in Whatsonstage’s Awards, England’s largest theatre portal on the internet.


Prophet in one´s own and other countries
Here at home among the fjords, we Norwegians still keep a strong grip on our Peer, the cheerful adventurer with his high spirits, and somewhat flexible moral rules. In Norway, there were 7 premieres of Peer Gynt in the year gone by. Two of them were by dance theatres, and one was a rock musical which toured to Norwegian prisons. Peer Gynt could also be seen in Hungary, Germany, England, Poland, France, Austria, Romania and Sweden in the previous year. In the last country´s production Peer is played by Magnus Krepper, whom many would have seen in the Millenium Trilogy and The Bridge.

Boyd Gaines as Tomas Stockmann in New York. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Censorship, politics and freedom of speech in times of stress is the theme of An Enemy of the People from 1892. Ibsen revealed when the play was finished that he agreed with Dr. Stockmann in many things and there is not much doubt that you have to consider the enormous linguistic abilities of both the main character and his originator. An Enemy of the People was one of Ibsen’s most performed dramas in 2012. In Germany, a new adaptation was given the fitting title Disobedience!And the action was set to contemporary times.

85 enemies of the people on Broadway
On New York´s Broadway, as many as 85 performances of An Enemy of the People were played in Manhattan Theatre Club. With a season coinciding with the American election campaign’s most intense final stage, a few parallels were naturally drawn between Dr. Stockmann’s fiery admonitions and the promises of the presidential candidates. The reviewer in The New York Timescouldn´t help "chewing the fat over Ibsen" after curtain call: "It is startling to discover how current the play’s ideas can feel. At a time when American politicians are regularly accused of following the polls […] Dr. Stockmann´s unbending morals and his contempt for the unthinking majority can seem both radical and invigorating."

The Master Builder opened the Delhi Ibsen Festival 2012. Anubha Fatehpuria as Hilde Wangel and Kunal Padhi as Solness. The production was directed by the Polish director Wlodzimierz Staniewski. Photo: Sushil Kumar Vera.

A stable Ibsen year was otherwise marked by the International Ibsen Conference at the University of Tromsø, and the Ibsen Festivals in Oslo (the 13th) and New Delhi (the 4th). In Oslo, there were anxious times when the house with the apartment Ibsen lived in the last 11 years of his life was on the market, and the Ibsen Museum, which is not more than 20 years old, found itself in unchartered waters. As it turned out, Oslo-enthusiast and admirer of Ibsen’s female characters, Christian Ringnes, saved the day by buying the house, and these days, a new Ibsen-spring is being planned.

Read more about last year’s Ibsen productions in’s repertoire database.

Translated by May-Brit Akerholt.