White Shirt Monday: Vikings, Viqueens

[Brünnhilde marrying the Lady of the Lake. Or Dumbledore presiding over the marriage of Hagrid’s sister to some Asgard lady straight (or not so straight) out of SG1? – Actually, it’s not that far off: Warrior (Maiden) being offered the hand of the Fair Princes by her Father, the King. In an actual Viking-set opera. Martina Dike, Daniel Hällström, Ulrike Björndal in Wilhelm Stenhammar’s “Tirfing”, Malmö 2011. – Photo Credit: Malin Arnesson]

This late 19th century opera and its recent Malmo production are brought to you by foreign correspondent Hanna, who brought it to my attention (thanks, Hanna!). Her detailing of the synopsis — which I swear is based on fanfiction that Brangäne wrote to get over Isolde who made her brew love potions regarding Tristan, that douche — was so hilarious that I am simply quoting it here:


Hervor (daughter of a warrior) wants to conquer the world, and goes to his father’s grave to retrieve the magic allmighty sword Tirfing (that kills on every blow). The father appears from his grave and grants her the sword on two conditions: never to reveal her true identity (as his daughter), and never to let anyone know she’s a woman. (Hmmm…)

Act I:

A feast is being prepaired at King Gudmund’s castle. Princess Gullväg is in love with her brother Vidar’s best friend warrior Hervardur (who of course is Hervor disguised as a man). Vidar is happy that his sister has found the love of her life, but at the same time he also finds Hervardur (=Hervor) SO interesting! Vidar’s aria reveals it all: “Hervardur is mine, because he loves me. /–/ Our friendship is a door that leads us to new lands of full love!” (A-hmmm…!) And a night on an icebearskinrug follows…

Act II:

The feast culminates (in Turandot manner) in a quiz, where the King wants answers for a riddle, and of course Hervardur knows the answer. The tragedy grows from her/him NOT wanting to collect the prize (princess Gullväg). Everything culminates in a duel, because Vidar has to defend his sister’s honour. Vidar dies by H’s magic sword.

In the final scene Hervor reveals her true identity to maiden Gullväg (next to the body of Vidar’s dead body): “Feminine heartbeat was desguised in male clothing /—/ the woman who gave up her right to be a woman – who came to be a man – that was ME!”

And what do we learn from this story?

Never refuse a beautiful princess if she asks for your hand.

Really, Hervor, was that helmet a little too tight?!

[Martina Dike, the mezzo who originally prompted this post (far too little material of her is available via YT or other net sources. I, for one, am very curious about her Brangäne), as Hervor, Malmö 2011. – Photo Credit: Hanna]

Courtesy of Hanna, here are a few more impressions of the production:

Hagrid Hervor’s father presenting her daugher with the magic Tirfing (destined marriage to the Lady of the Lake: see fine print)

Hervor also channels a bit of Pippi-Longstocking-Punk-Riot-Grrl-badassery… no wonder Princess Gullväg is immediately smitten!)Hanna called this one “Reaction to seduction on an polar bear skin rug”. – Point taken! Vidar: perhaps she’s jsut not that into you.

And it the spirit of the game, here is one last Turandotian question, dear White Shirts:

Who is outgaying whom here?!

10 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: Vikings, Viqueens”

  1. Err… has there been a rift in the time-space continuum*? Have I missed a memo? Is it April 1st already? I mean can it really be true that the *mezzo* in *this* is called *Martina*…. *Dike*?


    PS Hanna – “The feast culminates (in Turandot manner) in a quiz” – ROFL.

    * No I will not apologise for invoking Star Trek / Klingons in this context – there is quite enough slashfic campery in this post already, a little more can’t hurt. Besides that last still looks awfully like Jadzia Dax and his/her ex at their happy reunion…


    1. Oh yes, Cat, really! The mezzo is indeed called Martina Dike. And yes, her name sounds hilarious in English! (Swedish “dike” means “a ditch”).

      I have to make one correction in my synonpsis: I misspelled Hervor’s he-name: it is Hervardur.

      I also have to add, that the original story says Hervor finally goes and killes herself, but in this production she only says that “Now I am ready to die”, and walks from the scene embracing a bright beam of light with open arms – whatever that means then…

      Anik: the broadcast I commented on, was the filming of the opening night of this Malmö production 15 October 2011.


      1. thanks, Hanna – I tried to correct everything.
        it’s really a pity that there aren’t any clips on YT, or more clips of Dike’s voice, particularly in opera.


      2. Funny, in Scots the works dyke means a wall – in fact I had a good friend once who loved in a street called Dumbiedykes. As you can imagine the source of constant immature giggling amongst our set. A language is a lovely thing….


      3. But then we Scots and our Nordic cousins are all very close… my surname is a Gaelic translation of “Son of Olaf”, the Olaf in question being Black Olaf, the last of the Norse Kings of the “Kingdom of the Isles”… Explains a lot… 😉


        1. Dyke can mean valley in English, probably from connection with Old Norse. Around Brighton are many tourist signs directing traffic to the “Devil’s Dyke.”


  2. I’d never heard of this, but it looks really interesting. Here’s a sympathetic review, that points out the feminist motivation of the librettist:

    “Anna Boberg, an artist, wrote the libretto as a commentary on the problem that if success is defined by men, women have to become men to be successful (the type of pressure she no doubt felt herself in her career). ”


    Unfortunately, youtube doesn’t have anything from the opera, but it does have some of Stenhammer’s other work, which I sampled. Very nice!


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