Alexander Rybak makes magic at Norway House
A Sommer Musikk Fest featuring a Eurovision superstar
The Norwegian American / Norway House
What do you do when an act of a family of 17 Norwegian musicians has to cancel a long-anticipated set of performances for a major summer music festival? For Norway House and the Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota (EGSM), that became the big question when the Habbestad Ensemble encountered visa and travel issues for the 2023 Sommer Musikk Fest, set to kick off on July 26.
It was disappointing news to all involved, but the event stakeholders were bound to bounce back with bravado. After some internal brainstorming and serious networking, a new act presented itself: none less than one of Eurovision’s greatest winners of all time, Alexander Rybak.
Rybak has come a long way from his record-breaking win in the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest, the world’s most-watched musical event. The Norwegian singer-songwriter and violin virtuoso took the world by storm with his song “Fairytale,” sung with his charming smile, athletic folk dancers, and a very catchy fiddle riff.
Today, Rybak is returning to his classical roots. Since completing his master’s degree in film composition at Columbia College in Chicago, the Eurovision star has taken a liking to the United States and has established himself in Los Angeles, where he is currently building a career in film composition in Hollywood.
Sommer Musikk Fest
For his performances at the Sommer Musikk Fest at Norway House, Rybak will appear with pianist Stefan Ibsen Zlatanos.
This duo is an expression of Rybak’s roots. Zlatanos is one of the most acclaimed virtuoso pianists in Scandinavia and Rybak’s childhood friend from Norway.
The two musicians will offer up a delicious musical buffet of popular showstoppers and a couple of jazz favorites tossed with original compositions of both classical and popular nature.
The concert program includes uniquely arranged pieces for violin and pinao. Zlatanos will seduce the audience with his beautiful renditions of Edvard Grieg, and Rybak will perform in brilliant fashion Antonio Bazzini’s “Dance of the Goblins.” The evening will be woven together with a healthy dose of humor, and the audience can expect surprises and expect to be inspired.
Speaking of surprises, attendees at the Norway House annual Midsummer Gala on June 13 got a big one when Rybak suddenly appeared on stage, violin in hand. He brought down the house with his unexpected performance. EGSM President Margy Sather Peterson said, “It was really fun to hear; Alexander was a highlight of the evening. He did a stunning job performing, thrilling the audience with the musical imagery of Norwegian folk composer Sven Nyhus. Through his articulation and expression, he entranced the audience, evoking the scenery of a Norwegian mountainside. I can’t wait for him to come back with his trio in July for our Sommer Musikk Fest.”
So, mark your calendars: Alexander Rybak and Stefan Ibsen Zlatanoswill perform at Norway House’s Sundet Aula at 913 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis on July 28 at 7 p.m. The entire Sommer Musikk Fest runs from July 26 to Aug. 5, and festival passes are available. Tickets can by purchased at norwayhouse.org/egsmn/sommer-fest-2023.
“It’s not every day that you get to hear two world-class musicians, including a Norwegian pop icon in an intimate venue like Norway House,” said Lori Ann Reinhall, editor-in-chief of The Norwegian American. She interviewed Rybak last summer (see link below), when she also heard him play at Chicago’s Minnekirken. Reinhall is planning to travel from Seattle to Minneapolis for the Sommer Musikk Fest performance and encourages others from out of town to join her there.
A variety of accommodations are available in the area, including a budget option to stay at the Danish American Center. Call (612) 729-3800 or visit their website at danishamericancenter.org/room-rent
Also see: It’s the one and only Alexander Rybak! in the June 24, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.
This article originally appeared in the July 2023 issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.