Aria Borealis Bodø launches with compelling mix of international Early Music singing competition and festival and celebration of worldwide musical community (24 June – 2 July 2022)

New initiative grows from creative collaboration between northern Norway’s cultural hub and ensembles of Nordic Baroque Scene

Audience members to experience intense music-making and Bodø’s awe-inspiring natural landscape beneath an Arctic midsummer’s never-setting sun

Music and community are set to grow ever closer in Bodø. The compact city, located just north of the Arctic Circle on Norway’s rugged coastline, is preparing to launch the first edition of biennial event Aria Borealis Bodø (24 June – 2 July 2022). Its innovative programme comprises the Aria Borealis Bodø International Competition for Early Music Singers, a companion festival of Early Music and opportunities for music lovers of all ages to explore rich repertoire in company with inspiring performers from the Nordic countries and beyond.

Aria Borealis Bodø represents a distinctive new combination of competition and festival. The programme’s fresh format flows from its creators’ determination to place eight outstanding competition winners in company with an ensemble of historically informed performance specialists and treat them as equal partners in chamber-scale performances. Audiences will be able to follow the creative process as it unfolds from rehearsals to concerts, and discover more about the collaborative art of interpretation as the nine-day event unfolds.

The competition, open to singers born in 1985 or later, began in January with a digital round that attracted over one hundred entrants from 39 countries. Eight winners have been chosen from a strong field by the distinguished jury of British soprano Dame Emma Kirkby, harpsichordist and Artistic Director of Concerto Copenhagen Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Theater an der Wien director Stefan Herheim, Finnish soprano Tuuli Lindeberg and Swedish tenor Anders J. Dahlin.

“The many applications for Aria Borealis revealed a wealth of young singers with fine voices, of varying sizes, already strong, healthy and flexible;” comments Dame Emma Kirkby. “Beyond this we looked for special qualities: awareness of and response to different contexts and acoustics, engagement and dialogue with accompanying instruments, and the eloquence that comes from a real engagement with text. With these in place and so many colours revealed, singers emerged as unmistakeable characters; we have eight fantastic individuals – and could have chosen many more!”

Seventeenth-century Naples comes to Bodø on 24 June in the form of dances and songs performed by L’Arpeggiata and Christina Pluhar. Their performance immediately follows Aria Borealis Bodø’s opening ceremony and marks the start of a series of concerts that combine elements of festival and competition.

A surprise concert given by jury members and friends is scheduled for 25 June, with Emma Kirkby, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Tuuli Lindeberg and Anders J. Dahlin performing together for the first time. Lutenist Rolf Lislevand, star of Norwegian folk music Berit Opheim and one of the world’s leading bandoneon players, the Norwegian Per Arne Glorvigen, explore the points where folk and Baroque music meet on 26 June, while Bjarte Eike and Barokkanerne are joined by Tore Johansen and Bodø Rhythm Group on 29 June for Baroccan Jazz, a celebration of the art of improvisation.

Other programme highlights include composer Maja Ratjke and Nordic Affect’s Rökkur, a deep dive into the creative world of twilight (30 June), youth ensemble UngBarokk’s Bodø debut concert (1 July), and the two concert competition rounds (27 June & 2 July).

Bodø, long known for its breathtaking landscape, has expanded throughout the past decade to become a major cultural centre. Its international profile has soared since it was named European City of Culture for 2024. The inaugural Aria Borealis Bodø represents a pioneering collaboration between Nordic Baroque Scene (NBS), a network formed by the four leading Nordic Baroque orchestras, and Bodø’s Stormen Culture Centre, a concert hall, library and multi-purpose performance space opened in 2014.

Rasmus Adrian, a former managing director of Concerto Copenhagen and now director and CEO of Stormen Concert Hall, came to Bodø two years ago. He had helped shape existing NBS plans to create an Early Music singing competition and identified Bodø as its ideal host city.

“We have a beautiful concert hall with excellent acoustics,” notes Adrian. “There are so many possibilities for presenting the performing arts at Stormen, not just in the main hall. The different spaces within the venue will serve the music and also help us build a special relationship between the eight competition winners, our instrumentalists and our audience. This is a unique opportunity for the concert hall to host and develop an event that is different from the traditional format for classical music competitions.”

Aria Borealis Bodø’s competition winners will work with a pool of players drawn from Nordic Baroque Scene’s four constituent ensembles: Concerto Copenhagen, the Finnish Baroque Orchestra, Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble and Barokkanerne (Norwegian Baroque Ensemble). “We have invited those musicians who enjoy doing more than performing a concert and going home again,” observes Mari Giske, an experienced period-instrument string player and project manager for Nordic Baroque Scene. “Our players will take part in workshops and masterclasses, and also reach out to an enthusiastic audience from Norway and around the world. We hope to see the most knowledgeable amateur musicians coming from all parts of Europe and elsewhere to Bodø, along with students and professional musicians who would like to develop their skills in Early Music. And of course we want to welcome our local audience and encourage their curiosity and sense of ownership of Aria Borealis Bodø. This is all about the music and the enjoyment of it.”

Community spirit is central to Aria Borealis Bodø. Audience members and performers alike will be brought together by the schedule of concerts, lectures, lunchtime talks, masterclasses and many other events. Intergenerational connections are sure to be reinforced by UngBarokk, a summer course for young musicians, and the Aria Borealis Bodø Sessions, a course involving music students and amateur and professional musicians. Concerts and other sessions will be streamed to broaden the audience reach far beyond Bodø.

Aria Borealis Bodø’s commitment to openness and exploration will be embedded in the competition’s concert programmes. These will include indigenous folksongs from each winner’s homeland, specially arranged by NBS musicians, alongside Baroque repertoire chosen from the period 1600 to 1750. The in-person competition’s first round (27 June) will comprise open rehearsals with NBS musicians and coaching given by Aria Borealis Bodø jury members. The second round (2 July) sees singers competing in teams that will perform lightly staged opera scenes with full orchestra.

“We have a truly international selection of winners, chosen from a strikingly wide group of performers,” notes Rasmus Adrian. “Aria Borealis Bodø is about giving our audience the best possible experience of the music and celebrate the joy that comes when people from around the world gather in a beautiful place to share what they care so much about.”

Discover the full programme on