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The 11th International Ibsen Conference

Speech by HM Queen Sonja at the opening of The 11th International Ibsen Conference, August 2006.

Friends of Ibsen,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Like his character Peer Gynt Henrik Ibsen was ”Norwegian by birth”, but ”citizen of the world”. Ibsen was, however, very much in doubt whether audiences and readers abroad would understand Peer Gynt, and Ibsen expresses surprise when his German interpreter – in May 1880 – suggests to translate Peer Gynt into German. In Ibsen’s mind this drama would not easily be understood outside of Scandinavia. We can safely say that Ibsen has been proven wrong in his assumption - Peer Gynt has been - and is today - staged and read all over the world. Also the programme here today shows the international Peer Gynt.

Ibsen wrote in a letter to King Carl the 15th (XV) that he wanted to “arouse his countrymen out of their lethargy and direct their attention to the great questions of life”. He added that his most important task was to “awaken the people and inspire them to think about the bigger issues.”

Henrik Ibsen was a central figure in the modern breakthrough in the intellectual life of Europe, and is considered “the father of modern drama”. Even a century after his death his plays have proved to be very relevant to the social debate and are still highly topical. Ibsen is not a political agitator who offers final solutions to the problems; - his plays promote reflection and provide guidance.

The scenes he creates are set in Norway and are typical of their time. However, he puts freedom of expression, protection of the environment, gender equality, human dignity, corruption and the use of power on the agenda in such a way that his plays continue to be relevant today.

Ibsen’s characters were ordinary people. The maid, the child, the carpenter, doctor and teacher were given credible voices in the plot, each with their own vision, hopes and personal goals.

One of Ibsen’s unique qualities was his ability to enter into and understand the world of women. This was a result of his view of justice and his demand for personal freedom. As an example of this, I quote from the book “From Ibsen’s Workshop”: “A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.”

The International Ibsen Conference bears witness to the continued global interest in Ibsen. The main theme of this year’s conference is: “The Living Ibsen”. I understand that the program will cover a wide range of aspects, such as: Text, dramaturgy, politics, performance, history, translations, culture and influence. Outstanding scholars, academics and theatre people from more than 40 countries meet here in Oslo. You will exchange ideas and discuss Ibsen’s works for a whole week. This proves that Henrik Ibsen and his dramas are as relevant today as ever before. I am confident that the plenary speeches - which are open to the public - will draw a large audience and lead to new insight and renewed interest in this remarkable dramatist.

Henrik Ibsen is a Norwegian writer, but he does not belong only to Norway – he belongs to the world, as this international conference shows.

It is a great pleasure for me to declare The 11th International Ibsen Conference open.


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