Queen Sonja International Music Competition

The past week has seen three intense rounds of the Queen Sonja International Music Competition, with 37 contestants from 20 countries competing for the grand prize of  €40,000. The final round took place on Saturday at the Norwegian Opera House and was televised on NRK 1 and 2. The finalists sang arias and were accompanied by the Norwegian National Opera Orchestra (led by conductor John Helmer Fiore).

If you have not been to the Norwegian Opera House, you can see from the pictures that it is architecturally unique for an opera house. The building, designed by architecture firm Snøhetta, was just finished in 2008 and features a sloping, open-space roof where the public can look out into the surrounding landscape of the Oslofjord and the city.

The view from the roof of the Norwegian Opera House

The view from the roof of the Norwegian Opera House

Around the Opera House are artworks depicting well-known names in Norwegian opera.

Costumes used in recent productions are also on display.

During the prize giving ceremony, Queen Sonja thanked the finalists on stage:

Dear Finalists, I am full of admiration. You have touched our hearts. Let me thank each and every one of you for your great performances tonight. We have all been thrilled. Success in this competition can be measured not only by the prizes won, but by the confidence in your artistic abilities that I hope you have gained during this competition.

The first prize went to Seungju Bahg, a tenor from South Korea who has dreamed of becoming “a big opera singer” ever since he was a little boy.

The concert was broadcasted on NRK 1 and 2 and has been made available to watch on the NRK TV webplayer. Enjoy!

XOXO HONG PHUC

Kicking off Norwegian Fashion Week SS 18

It is Fashion Week once more and I attended the kickoff at the Norwegian Fashion Center, which recently opened in Fornebu. It was nice to explore the enormous centre’s 116 showrooms and see unique pieces from 480+ brands.

The kickoff began with a standout performance of “Young” by Anna&Djigia and transitioned into a fashion show with live music.

The models showcased some looks for Summer/Spring 2018, styled by Nina Jahre.

I am excited to see what else designers have in mind for next spring/summer!

XOXO HONG PHUC

Relaxing in Risør

Risør marina

Happy August! I am writing from Risør, a small city along the southern coast of Norway with a long, proud history of building wooden boats. Maritime culture is a big part of life in Risør and this week, thousands of boat enthusiasts from around the world flock to the harbour for the annual Wooden Boat Festival (Trebåtfestivalen). There, they find a myriad of traditional wooden boats, concerts, and activities. Even the King and the Prime Minister of Norway join in the festivities.

Wooden boat festival in Risør

Wooden boat festival in Risør

Wooden boat festival in Risør

The King of Norway's ship

The King of Norway’s ship

After a fire ravaged through the city in 1861 and left just 85 houses and a church from 1647, much of the city was rebuilt and improved upon, resulting in today’s Risør of white wooden houses and picturesque views of the archipelago. The best scenic viewpoint is atop Risørflekken, a whitewashed stone hill top which very old beacon ships could use to guide themselves into the harbour in poor visibility.

The view from Risørflekken

In the summer, there are guided tours of the city departing from the marina at 8 PM every Wednesday.

Our tour guide, Tomas, dressed as a traditional guard

Our tour guide, Tomas, dressed as a traditional guard

If you are curious about how it was to grow up in Risør, take the tour for a little information about the fire and a lot of anecdotes from Tomas’s childhood.

Enjoying ice cream in Risør

Visit Risør if you would like a taste of how it is to live in a small coastal town in Norway. The small boutiques here are full of local trinkets that can serve as reminders of your visit. Check the weather beforehand to make sure that the Norwegian summer does not spoil your plans 😉

XOXO HONG PHUC