Monday, August 24, 2015

H. C. Andersen Festivals 2015

The third annual H. C. Andersen Festivals (with an s!) took place here in Odense, Denmark on 16-23 August 2015. There had been problems the previous years with no public transportation, standing room only and no big screens, but surely, these problems must have been solved by now, right?
Wrong. Looking through the programme, I could see that I had to skip the events that I wanted to see the most, namely a production of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Flying Trunk” featuring the Italian acrobats eVènti Verticali, a music and performance show of Andersen’s “The Little Match Girl” and a dance performance of Andersen’s “Thumbelina”. Reason? Standing room only and no public transportation in the city centre after dark. Oh well, I had to find something else to see then, and during daytime!
Monday I went to the Art Street, but as usual, there was not much art in the street, only the usual carpet and cushions on wooden pallets. Eventually, I managed to find a few funny sculptures of animals and I liked the horses the best. Like previous years, artworks by the usual suspects such as Narcis Gironell, Quim Domene, Laurent Chabolle and Anne Brérot could be found in Gallery Rasmus.
Two out of five stars: **
The censored art exhibition in the Art Exhibition Building was next, but unfortunately it was as awful as usual and this year I wasn’t even allowed to vote for the best work, as I was on crutches due to a partial knee replacement seven weeks ago! Of the ones who were offered a ballot paper, I saw several using the exhibited paintings as blotting pads…
Zero out of five stars:

Tuesday I didn’t see anything, as I had to recover from the day before, but Wednesday I went to see “a whimsical installation full of magic and your own adventure” as it said in the festival programme. A mirror maze was supposed to be situated in the installation along with big puppets on a string, but when I arrived (within the opening hours), the installation – which was just a small pavilion with room for a few kids – was closed. What a disappointment!
Zero out of five stars:

Then I went on to Brandts Square, which the programme had promised would be turned into Aladdin’s cave with belly dancers, genies, exotic spices and real live camels, but there was nothing of that sort. Only a few paper lanterns and more cushions on wooden pallets. The local symphony orchestra was just finishing a concert on the amphi stage, but I couldn’t find a place to sit and watch it as all seats were taken and Danes never offer their seats to anybody, no matter if you are handicapped, pregnant, old or whatever. Furthermore, the busses by Brandts had been cancelled, not only after dark, but during daytime as well, so I struggled to get home.
One out of five stars (but only because the orchestra was good!): *
In the evening I went to see a “light and projection show” called Birds of Passage at the Hans Christian Andersen Museum near my home. The entrance to the museum had been turned into a kind of screen showing a ten minutes long projection of Andersen’s paper art combined with music and coloured lights. It was quite pretty and kind of soothing, but hardly any people had found their way to the museum and as usual, it was difficult to get back home as well as the busses only ran once an hour during evening.
Three out of five stars: ***
Thursday I went to “Glamour at Brandts”. The programme had promised a red carpet event at Brandts Cultural Centre with paparazzi, total make-overs, music, cocktail bars serving champagne, selfie opportunities etc., but to be honest, it was hard to spot any glam at all. In the entrance hall, there was a single DJ and an empty bar selling overpriced champagne. The place was totally deserted, but in the next room about a hundred women were crammed together waiting for their make-overs. One hairstylist, one make-up artist and one fashion stylist were to help all of the women one at a time, so not even a tenth would be able to have their make-over done, as the event lasted three hours only. I decided that I would rather see the rest of the centre, and who needs a make-over anyway?
I went upstairs to the exhibition “Danish Fashion Now” where in one room clothes by Danish designers were on display and in the other you could see dresses made for the rich and famous, for instance Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary. Some of the dresses were lined up on each side of a red carpet, so there WAS one, but not the way that the programme had described it. On the second floor, I saw the exhibition “Selfie” where you could see selfies used as art, but there were no selfie-points or selfie opportunities for the guests, which I thought would have been fun.
It is safe to say that the glamour event was a big flop, but luckily the centre’s permanent art collection with a large number of classic and modern works by both Danish and international artist was open. I especially fell in love with Eva Koch’s 3D mapping on the plaster cast of the classic statue Hera.
The “Glamour on Brandts” event I can only give two out of five stars: **
The permanent art exhibition I’ll give four out of five stars: ****
The main attraction of the H. C. Andersen Festivals each year is the big 3D light show on Odense town hall façade by “We Create Magic”. It is so popular that more shows had been added this year, but alas it is still standing room only and with no public transportation nearby, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to see it. On the other hand, reviewing the festivals without mentioning the light show is like going to a Muse concert and only write about the warm up bands. Saturday night my daughter and I therefore took a chance, caught a bus an hour prior to the show, walked the last bit and were able to sit on the huge sculpture “Oceania” by Svend Wiig Hansen on the town square! There were thousands of people standing up around us, so we weren’t able to see the beginning of the show, which was a ten minutes dance show by The Royal Danish Ballet School on a runway in front of the town hall. The following ten minutes were what we had come to see anyway and this year we saw the animated stories of “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” projected onto the façade. It was truly magic, much better than “Clumsy Hans” last year, although not as good as the show in 2013 with “Thumbelina”, “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” and others. The evening ended with a sing-along and then we CRAWLED all the way back home and I haven’t been able to walk since!
Four out of five stars: ****
There were more than 500 events at the festival this year, so of course the above is not representative of the entire festival, but it is clear that it suffered from a number of (recurrent) problems, the gravest being:
1.      Several of the events didn’t match the description in the programme or had been cancelled and this year most of the really interesting ones weren’t even free anymore, so you had to pay fairly steep entrance fees.
2.      The festival wasn’t handicap-friendly with standing room only or many stairs to and from events, so people using wheel chairs, canes, crutches etc. were prevented from participating in most of them.
3.      The public transportation was crap!!! There was no transportation in or out of the city centre, the few busses on the ring around city were scarce and therefore crowded and many events ended after the busses had stopped running at night.
I hope that the private businesses that have funded this festival along with the town and the region intend to do something about these problems, as they tarnish what would otherwise be a great festival. At least I think it is sad if the festival is going to be solely for the young, rich and healthy in the future.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Odense Flower Festival 2015

Odense Flower Festival took place on 13-16 August 2015 and this year it marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of the local composer Carl Nielsen with the theme “Carl Nielsen’s Universe”.
Last year I promised myself that I would boycott this year’s Odense Flower Festival. The annual festival started eleven years ago in my hometown Odense, where the city centre was turned into a flower fairyland with imaginative floral sculptures everywhere. For the past six years, the flower art and sculptures have been replaced by nursing schools selling their flowers and because of this, the magic has gone.
I stayed true to my promise, so I didn’t go to the festival as such, but I couldn’t help seeing some of the displays anyway, mainly because I still wanted to see the band “Tankens Bager” (Baker of Thoughts) in concert. My friend Claus is the singer, songwriter and guitarist in the band and they play at the festival each year. This year their two concerts had been moved from the town square to the more prestigious amphi-stage by Brandt’s cultural centre. I met up with Claus’ sister, who is my old school friend, and we had a good evening. The music was great, but unfortunately, the flowers on display were rather boring.
The day after, my daughter and I went to town. As some of you know, I had a partial knee replacement seven weeks ago, so I am still on crutches and I have to go to check-ups, rehabilitation training and, of course, the chemist for painkillers and that was what we were doing that day. On our way we passed the town square, so we took a look at the flower displays. They were - quite frankly - rather boring and the most interesting were some wood and melon carvings! Not much to do with flowers, in my opinion.
As for the Carl Nielsen theme, the town square had some huge banners with funny photos of the composer as a young man and then some black silhouettes placed among flowers as references to Nielsen’s 1906 opera “Masquerade”. Again, it didn’t have that much to do with flowers.
On the town square, you could have your picture taken as participants in the masquerade, so of course my daughter and did that. It was probably the highlight of the festival and that is a little sad, as I would rather have been blown away by amazing flower sculptures.

Be sure that I am going to boycott the festival again next year. I pity the tourists who had travelled from near and far to visit the festival, as it was plainly not worth it.

© Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2015


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