This year’s festival in Bergen opens with the world premiere of an international co-production by director/choreographer Alan Lucien Øyen from winter guests. The cast includes Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann.

The opening performance is called The American Moth and is a hybrid multimedia performance that combines dance, theatre in several languages and cinematic live video. The international cast consists of dancers and actors, including the Norwegian theatre and film legend Liv Ullmann.

‘Working on a large international performing arts project in the middle of a global pandemic is, of course, difficult – almost impossible – but as an artist, the scariest thing that happened last year was what happened to our dreams. It is our job and duty to dream, but now the future was suddenly ‘gone’, says director and choreographer Alan Lucien Øyen from performing arts company winter guests.

Demonstrating the potential of Norwegian performing arts
When everything came to a halt this autumn, the nine performers sat down in a circle and asked each other questions.

‘The answer was a two-month-long conversation about demons, nightmares, the dreams we gave up, and the gap between what we thought and what we now know. Liv Ullmann joining the project was a gift. At the age of 82, everything is still possible for someone who sees the world as she does. Now, two months before the premiere, the future is still a flashing marker on an empty screen, but our dreams of the future are stronger than ever, says Øyen.

‘The American Moth is a piece for the current time, created in the middle of a global pandemic. The performance extracts content from the human conditions that are incomprehensibly real in the here and now. It’s about you and me and our fragile lives in a lifeless time. With a lot of effort, this magical performance dreams into existence a wonderful new world with inexhaustible and recurring themes such as loneliness, childhood, travel, memory, time, fear and hope, says festival director Anders Beyer.

In addition to the Bergen International Festival, the co-producers consist of renowned international institutions such as the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the National Theater of Taipei and the Norwegian Opera & Ballet in Oslo.

The American Moth is a large, international performing arts project with Alan Lucien Øyen’s unmistakable signature. Internationally, he is now among the most sought-after Norwegian performing artists. We are proud to be able to highlight a Norwegian production with international contributors and to show the world the enormous potential that exists in Norwegian performing arts, says the festival director.

The pandemic means significant programme changes
The commissioned work Taylor Mac – A 24-Decade History of Popular Music has previously been announced as the opening performance of the 2021 Bergen International Festival. This production has been moved to 2022.

‘The American artist Taylor Mac, who received the International Ibsen Prize this autumn, was to play with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and his own band. During the spring, we have become painfully aware that it would be challenging to get all the American artists involved to Norway. Therefore, we have chosen to push the performance to next year, says Beyer.

Although it has long been clear that the pandemic could lead to significant changes along the way, the Bergen International Festival has chosen to launch this year’s programme as it has been confirmed. The festival director must now also see other productions disappear from the 2021 programme. Among the major changes so far is the installation Bergen_Portal, which, like Taylor Mac, has American origins and has been postponed until 2022, and a cancelled symphonic concert with the world-famous Vienna Philharmonic. The festival director does not yet know whether international artists will be allowed into the country in May or how many audience members will be allowed.

‘Working on significant changes in the programme so close to the festival itself is of course challenging. As art institutions, we must always be open and ready for change, but the conditions for everyone involved in culture are utterly impossible at the moment. Fortunately, our surroundings and audience are very understanding, and we can hardly wait to meet people in theatres and concert halls again, says Beyer.

Facts / The American Moth

• By winter guests / Alan Lucien Øyen

• Direction / choreography: Alan Lucien Øyen

• Cast: Liv Ullmann, Tom Remlov, Yvonne Øyen, Andrew Wale, Lee-Yuan Tu, Olivia Ancona, Douglas Letheren, Meng-Ke Wu, Zander Constant

• Screenplay: Alan Lucien Øyen / Andrew Wale

• A co-production between The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., The National Theater and Concert Hall, Taipei, the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, Oslo, and the Bergen International Festival

• World premiere in Grieghallen in Bergen 26 May 2021

Facts / The Bergen International Festival

• The Nordic region’s largest curated festival for music and performing arts

• The programme focuses on art music and performing arts

• The first Bergen International Festival was held in 1953

• The  Bergen International Festival 2020 was mainly digital. The programme had over one million initiated streams from 122 countries

• The Bergen International Festival 2021 takes place 26 May–09 June 2021