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Work of the Week – Anno Schreier: Nils Holgerssons wunderbare Reise

In Nils Holgerssons wunderbare Reise (“Nils Holgersson’s Wonderful Journey”), composer Anno Schreier transforms the children’s book “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils” by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf into a work of music theatre for children aged six and up. Commission by Kölner Philharmonie and KölnMusik for a joint project, “Singing with the class!”, it receives its world premiere in Cologne on 27 June 2019. Around 300 local primary school children will take part in the world premiere, singing side by side with the Gürzenich-Orchester Cologne under the baton of Andreas Fellner. Christoph Bertram and Eva Marianne Kraiss will perform Nils and the other characters of the adventure tale.

As a punishment for his naughty behavior, young Nils Holgersson is shrunken to the size of a dwarf. He flies northwards on the back of Martin the goose and a thrilling adventure ensues.

“Nils entirely forgot that he was little and helpless: He leapt right in amongst the flock of geese, throwing his arms around the neck of the gander. “Oh, no! You won´t fly away this time, sir!” he cried. But it was then that the gander was considering how he should go to work to raise himself from the ground. He couldn´t stop to shake the boy off, hence he had to go along with him – up into the air.” – Selma Lagerlöf, The Wonderful Adventures of Nils

Published in 1906, “The Wonderful Adventures of Nils” is more than a simple adventure tale. It was Lagerlöf’s to allow students to explore their home country from a bird´s eye view and, through Nils, come to know virtues such as friendship, trust and responsibility.

Anno Schreier: Nils Holgerssons wunderbare Reise – children’s story as music theatre

Schreier and librettist Alexander Jansen bring the story of the novel forward to the present day. A children´s choir narrates the most important moments of the journey in entertaining and catchy songs, while the roles of Nils and the other characters are played by two actors.

Anno Schreier has already seen great success with previous music theatre works for young people including Der Zauberer von Oz (The Wizard of Oz) and Prinzessin im Eis (Princess in the Ice), as well as with operas from literature like HamletDie Stadt der Blinden (City of the Blind, after José Saramago) and Schade, dass sie eine Hure war (‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, after John Ford). His music is characterised by the use of multiple styles and musical quotations, which build into his own distinctive, often grotesque sound. These and others works by Schreier have recently become available from Schott Music.