Norway's Christiania Theatre, 1827-1867: From Danish Showhouse to National Stage
Ann Schmiesing

About the Author :
Ann Schmiesing received her PhD from Cambridge University in 1996 with a dissertation on the German dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. In addition to having published articles on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century German and French drama by Lessing, Racine, and Rotrou, she has written on the history of Norwegian theatre and on the Norwegian writers Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Henrik Wergeland, and Johan Falkberget. Her articles have appeared in national and international journals such as Scandinavian Studies, Scandinavica, Germanisch-Romanische Monatsschrift, the Lessing Yearbook, and Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies. She is currently an associate professor of Scandinavian and German literature and culture at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

After having been the lesser partner and at times no more than a province during centuries of union with Denmark, Norway struggled in the nineteenth century to assert its cultural and political identity. This struggle was played out with particular fervor at the Christiania Theatre in Christiania, now Oslo. Although Norway was in a union with Sweden from 1814 to 1905, it remained in the cultural shadow of Denmark for most of the nineteenth century. Until the mid-1860s Danish actors and directors dominated the Christiania Theatre and even plays written by Norwegian authors were performed in Danish. With the rising tide of nationalist sentiment in the middle decades of the 1800s, calls were made to establish a national theatre at which Norwegian actors would perform in Norwegian and at which the repertoire would include a greater proportion of plays by Norwegian dramatists.

Conceived for scholars interested in theatre studies, Scandinavian studies, nationalism, and nineteenth-century history and culture, this book examines the intellectual campaigns that transformed the Christiania Theatre from a Danish stage into the forerunner of Norway’s National Theatre. It focuses on the culture wars between the Norwegian nationalists and the so-called Danomaniacs in the 1830s; the promotion of the Hegelian and national romantic cultural agenda in the 1840s and 1850s; Bjørnson’s and Ibsen’s rejection of both radical nationalism and the entrenched Danishness of the theatre in the 1850s; and Bjørnson’s ambitious attempts to reform the theatre in the mid-1860s by “Norwegianizing” both the acting at the theatre and the classics of European dramatic literature.

Although the decades-long transformation of the Christiania Theatre into a Norwegian institution contributed to a cultural awakening from which dramatists such as Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson benefited (and in which both figures participated as authors and theatre directors), it has been largely overlooked in scholarly literature on nationalism and nineteenth-century theatre. The history of this transformation is of particular relevance now, in view of the centenary, of Norway’s independence from Sweden in 2005 and the two-hundred-year anniversary of the dissolution of its union with Denmark in 2014.

ISBN 0-8386-4107-5, $50.00

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