Tag Archives: Sweden

Notable Nobel literature winners from the past

The Swedish Academy announced on Oct. 13 that Bob Dylan is this year’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The prize has been awarded since 1901, when French poet Sully Prudhomme became the inaugural winner of the literature award.

The 2015 laureate was Belarusian writer and journalist Svetlana Alexievich.

The average age of the winning author is 65.

Rudyard Kipling, the British author who is perhaps best known for The Jungle Book, is still the youngest recipient from 1907 when he was 41.

The 2007 winner, Doris Lessing, also British, is the oldest at 88. Lessing, whose work ranged from memoir to science fiction, is one of only 14 female laureates.

Dylan will receive 8 million Swedish kronor (about $930,000), as well as a cherished medal.

Only two individuals have declined the award.

Boris Pasternak, who was best-known for the epic Doctor Zhivago, refused the award in 1958 following pressure from authorities in the Soviet Union, while French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre rejected it in 1964 because of a long opposition to such honors.

Here’s the list…

Bob Dylan

“for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015

Svetlana Alexievich

“for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2014

Patrick Modiano

“for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2013

Alice Munro

“master of the contemporary short story”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2012

Mo Yan

“who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2011

Tomas Tranströmer

“because, through his condensed, translucent images, he gives us fresh access to reality”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa

“for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2009

Herta Müller

“who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2008

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio

“author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2007

Doris Lessing

“that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2006

Orhan Pamuk

“who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2005

Harold Pinter

“who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2004

Elfriede Jelinek

“for her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society’s clichés and their subjugating power”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2003

John M. Coetzee

“who in innumerable guises portrays the surprising involvement of the outsider”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2002

Imre Kertész

“for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2001

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul

“for having united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2000

Gao Xingjian

“for an æuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the Chinese novel and drama”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1999

Günter Grass

“whose frolicsome black fables portray the forgotten face of history”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1998

José Saramago

“who with parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1997

Dario Fo

“who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1996

Wislawa Szymborska

“for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1995

Seamus Heaney

“for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1994

Kenzaburo Oe

“who with poetic force creates an imagined world, where life and myth condense to form a disconcerting picture of the human predicament today”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1993

Toni Morrison

“who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1992

Derek Walcott

“for a poetic oeuvre of great luminosity, sustained by a historical vision, the outcome of a multicultural commitment”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1991

Nadine Gordimer

“who through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1990

Octavio Paz

“for impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1989

Camilo José Cela

“for a rich and intensive prose, which with restrained compassion forms a challenging vision of man’s vulnerability”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1988

Naguib Mahfouz

“who, through works rich in nuance – now clear-sightedly realistic, now evocatively ambiguous – has formed an Arabian narrative art that applies to all mankind”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1987

Joseph Brodsky

“for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1986

Wole Soyinka

“who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1985

Claude Simon

“who in his novel combines the poet’s and the painter’s creativeness with a deepened awareness of time in the depiction of the human condition”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1984

Jaroslav Seifert

“for his poetry which endowed with freshness, sensuality and rich inventiveness provides a liberating image of the indomitable spirit and versatility of man”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1983

William Golding

“for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1982

Gabriel García Márquez

“for his novels and short stories, in which the fantastic and the realistic are combined in a richly composed world of imagination, reflecting a continent’s life and conflicts”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1981

Elias Canetti

“for writings marked by a broad outlook, a wealth of ideas and artistic power”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1980

Czeslaw Milosz

“who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man’s exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1979

Odysseus Elytis

“for his poetry, which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts with sensuous strength and intellectual clear-sightedness modern man’s struggle for freedom and creativeness”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1978

Isaac Bashevis Singer

“for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1977

Vicente Aleixandre

“for a creative poetic writing which illuminates man’s condition in the cosmos and in present-day society, at the same time representing the great renewal of the traditions of Spanish poetry between the wars”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1976

Saul Bellow

“for the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1975

Eugenio Montale

“for his distinctive poetry which, with great artistic sensitivity, has interpreted human values under the sign of an outlook on life with no illusions”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1974

Eyvind Johnson

“for a narrative art, far-seeing in lands and ages, in the service of freedom”

Harry Martinson

“for writings that catch the dewdrop and reflect the cosmos”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1973

Patrick White

“for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1972

Heinrich Böll

“for his writing which through its combination of a broad perspective on his time and a sensitive skill in characterization has contributed to a renewal of German literature”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1971

Pablo Neruda

“for a poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1970

Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

“for the ethical force with which he has pursued the indispensable traditions of Russian literature”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1969

Samuel Beckett

“for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1968

Yasunari Kawabata

“for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1967

Miguel Angel Asturias

“for his vivid literary achievement, deep-rooted in the national traits and traditions of Indian peoples of Latin America”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1966

Shmuel Yosef Agnon

“for his profoundly characteristic narrative art with motifs from the life of the Jewish people”

Nelly Sachs

“for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel’s destiny with touching strength”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1965

Mikhail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov

“for the artistic power and integrity with which, in his epic of the Don, he has given expression to a historic phase in the life of the Russian people”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1964

Jean-Paul Sartre

“for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1963

Giorgos Seferis

“for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1962

John Steinbeck

“for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1961

Ivo Andric

“for the epic force with which he has traced themes and depicted human destinies drawn from the history of his country”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1960

Saint-John Perse

“for the soaring flight and the evocative imagery of his poetry which in a visionary fashion reflects the conditions of our time”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1959

Salvatore Quasimodo

“for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1958

Boris Leonidovich Pasternak

“for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1957

Albert Camus

“for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1956

Juan Ramón Jiménez

“for his lyrical poetry, which in Spanish language constitutes an example of high spirit and artistical purity”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1955

Halldór Kiljan Laxness

“for his vivid epic power which has renewed the great narrative art of Iceland”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1954

Ernest Miller Hemingway

“for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1953

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill

“for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1952

François Mauriac

“for the deep spiritual insight and the artistic intensity with which he has in his novels penetrated the drama of human life”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1951

Pär Fabian Lagerkvist

“for the artistic vigour and true independence of mind with which he endeavours in his poetry to find answers to the eternal questions confronting mankind”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1950

Earl (Bertrand Arthur William) Russell

“in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1949

William Faulkner

“for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1948

Thomas Stearns Eliot

“for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1947

André Paul Guillaume Gide

“for his comprehensive and artistically significant writings, in which human problems and conditions have been presented with a fearless love of truth and keen psychological insight”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1946

Hermann Hesse

“for his inspired writings which, while growing in boldness and penetration, exemplify the classical humanitarian ideals and high qualities of style”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1945

Gabriela Mistral

“for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1944

Johannes Vilhelm Jensen

“for the rare strength and fertility of his poetic imagination with which is combined an intellectual curiosity of wide scope and a bold, freshly creative style”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1943

No Nobel Prize was awarded this year. The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1942

No Nobel Prize was awarded this year. The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1941

No Nobel Prize was awarded this year. The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1940

No Nobel Prize was awarded this year. The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1939

Frans Eemil Sillanpää

“for his deep understanding of his country’s peasantry and the exquisite art with which he has portrayed their way of life and their relationship with Nature”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1938

Pearl Buck

“for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1937

Roger Martin du Gard

“for the artistic power and truth with which he has depicted human conflict as well as some fundamental aspects of contemporary life in his novel-cycle Les Thibault

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1936

Eugene Gladstone O’Neill

“for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1935

No Nobel Prize was awarded this year. The prize money was with 1/3 allocated to the Main Fund and with 2/3 to the Special Fund of this prize section.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1934

Luigi Pirandello

“for his bold and ingenious revival of dramatic and scenic art”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1933

Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin

“for the strict artistry with which he has carried on the classical Russian traditions in prose writing”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1932

John Galsworthy

“for his distinguished art of narration which takes its highest form in The Forsyte Saga

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1931

Erik Axel Karlfeldt

“The poetry of Erik Axel Karlfeldt”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1930

Sinclair Lewis

“for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1929

Thomas Mann

“principally for his great novel, Buddenbrooks, which has won steadily increased recognition as one of the classic works of contemporary literature”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1928

Sigrid Undset

“principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1927

Henri Bergson

“in recognition of his rich and vitalizing ideas and the brilliant skill with which they have been presented”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1926

Grazia Deledda

“for her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1925

George Bernard Shaw

“for his work which is marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1924

Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont

“for his great national epic, The Peasants

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1923

William Butler Yeats

“for his always inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1922

Jacinto Benavente

“for the happy manner in which he has continued the illustrious traditions of the Spanish drama”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1921

Anatole France

“in recognition of his brilliant literary achievements, characterized as they are by a nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1920

Knut Pedersen Hamsun

“for his monumental work, Growth of the Soil

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1919

Carl Friedrich Georg Spitteler

“in special appreciation of his epic, Olympian Spring

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1918

No Nobel Prize was awarded this year. The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1917

Karl Adolph Gjellerup

“for his varied and rich poetry, which is inspired by lofty ideals”

Henrik Pontoppidan

“for his authentic descriptions of present-day life in Denmark”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1916

Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam

“in recognition of his significance as the leading representative of a new era in our literature”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1915

Romain Rolland

“as a tribute to the lofty idealism of his literary production and to the sympathy and love of truth with which he has described different types of human beings”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1914

No Nobel Prize was awarded this year. The prize money was allocated to the Special Fund of this prize section.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1913

Rabindranath Tagore

“because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1912

Gerhart Johann Robert Hauptmann

“primarily in recognition of his fruitful, varied and outstanding production in the realm of dramatic art”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1911

Count Maurice (Mooris) Polidore Marie Bernhard Maeterlinck

“in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1910

Paul Johann Ludwig Heyse

“as a tribute to the consummate artistry, permeated with idealism, which he has demonstrated during his long productive career as a lyric poet, dramatist, novelist and writer of world-renowned short stories”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1909

Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlöf

“in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1908

Rudolf Christoph Eucken

“in recognition of his earnest search for truth, his penetrating power of thought, his wide range of vision, and the warmth and strength in presentation with which in his numerous works he has vindicated and developed an idealistic philosophy of life”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1907

Rudyard Kipling

“in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration which characterize the creations of this world-famous author”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1906

Giosuè Carducci

“not only in consideration of his deep learning and critical research, but above all as a tribute to the creative energy, freshness of style, and lyrical force which characterize his poetic masterpieces”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1905

Henryk Sienkiewicz

“because of his outstanding merits as an epic writer”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1904

Frédéric Mistral

“in recognition of the fresh originality and true inspiration of his poetic production, which faithfully reflects the natural scenery and native spirit of his people, and, in addition, his significant work as a Provençal philologist”

José Echegaray y Eizaguirre

“in recognition of the numerous and brilliant compositions which, in an individual and original manner, have revived the great traditions of the Spanish drama”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1903

Bjørnstjerne Martinus Bjørnson

“as a tribute to his noble, magnificent and versatile poetry, which has always been distinguished by both the freshness of its inspiration and the rare purity of its spirit”

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1902

Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen

“the greatest living master of the art of historical writing, with special reference to his monumental work, A history of Rome

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1901

Sully Prudhomme

“in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect”

Milwaukee Symphony connects with Nordic nature in Grieg, Sibelius program

The MSO will put a Milwaukee twist on Scandinavia Nov. 20 and Nov. 21, with the help of guest pianist Jon Kimura Parker and guest conductor Lawrence Renes.

Renes, a Dutch conductor currently leading the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, will present with Parker composer Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, a Nordic-themed work that introduces a program of Romantic-era symphonic works.

Renes, who has previously worked with MSO music director Edo de Waart as an assistant conductor for the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, says the program also will include Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony and Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. He believes the three together share a focus on connecting to nature, and particularly identifies with the two Nordic works.

“I spend about half of my time being music director in Stockholm in Sweden,” says Renes. “To the west is Norway, with Grieg being one of the giants, and to the east is Finland, with Sibelius being one of the giants, and so through my being here and working so much here in Scandinavia I feel that it has opened me up. I have always loved the music by both Grieg and Sibelius.”

Renes says Grieg’s concerto evokes the imagery of the Norwegian fjords and the indescribable expansiveness of the landscape.

“There’s no other concerto like the Grieg,” he says. “For me there’s no real storyline but it is more about feelings, big feelings that you get when you are in nature. I actually enjoy leaving the city behind for two days and disappearing in nature here in Sweden. When you wake up next to a lake, in the fjord in the mist, it brings these huge feelings inside me and it is hard to explain in words.”

For Parker, it’s his knowledge of the Grieg concerto’s historical significance that helps him bring out the imagery of the concerto. “This is the famous Norwegian piano concerto,” Parker says. “There’s a certain harmonic language that Grieg uses — minor 7th chords superimposed over dominant harmonies. I feel like that helps to create a picturesque element of the music.”

Like Grieg, Sibelius was proud of his cultural heritage. Both composers incorporated the unique qualities of folk music — dance forms, melodies and more — into their compositions. 

It’s this synthesis of nature and culture that Renes believes makes these Nordic works so resonant. He also thinks it’s what makes them feel so different every time he conducts them.

“When you walk in nature, if you go to the same place it will look differently every time you go — whether it’s the light, whether it’s the weather, the smell, which birds are there,” Renes says. “Something like the Sibelius symphony will always be different. …With Schubert and with Sibelius, it’s much more imaginative and in the moment.”

Having worked with the MSO before, Renes knows they will be more than ready for this style of work. “I hope what the audience picks up from our concerts is a kind of chamber music feel … something spontaneous and alive.”


The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will perform a program featuring works by Grieg, Sibelius and Schubert at 11:15 a.m. Nov. 20 and 8 p.m. Nov. 21. Tickets range from $17 to $107 and can be ordered at 414-291-7605 or mso.org.

Pop and politics: Sweden wins Eurovision Song Contest while Russia is booed

Sweden beat Russia to win the 60th Eurovision Song Contest over the weekend, in an event described by organizers as beyond politics but marred by boos for the Russian that were apparently prompted by the Ukraine conflict and the Kremlin’s anti-gay policies.

Italy took third in Europe’s iconic songfest, which this year carried the extra attraction of an entry by Australia. Many were hoping its candidate, Guy Sebastian, would take home the trophy, giving it a place in next year’s contest. But Australia, given a wild-card entry this year due to its enthusiastic fan base, came fifth, not enough to secure a spot in 2016.

The race between Russian star Polina Gagarina and Sweden’s Mans Zelmerlow went back and forth for most of the balloting as jurors from 40 countries voted along a worldwide audience submitting their preference by phone and app.

Zelmerlow finally triumphed with 365 points, with Gagarina receiving 303.

Sweden’s sixth Eurovision victory came 41 years after Swedish group Abba’s triumph with “Waterloo” launched their world career. Only Ireland has been more successful, with seven triumphs.

In his pop number “Heroes,” the Swede chose to forego the usual elaborate stage effects, relying instead on his strong singing and an innovative backdrop.

Cheers greeted his win. But the crowd’s reaction to Gagarina struck a jarring note for those who believed in the contest’s slogan, “Building Bridges.”

Kiev did not send a candidate this year. With many in the West viewing Moscow as the aggressor in Ukraine, the Russian’s song, “A Million Voices,” and its message of peace and understanding raised some eyebrows during the qualifiers leading up to the final. 

As scattered boos rang out after points were given to her, one of the hosts reminded the audience that “music should stand over politics tonight.”

With many Russians critical of last year’s winner, the bearded cross-dressing Austrian diva Conchita Wurst, some of the negative reaction may also have been directed at Russia’s generally repressive official climate against homosexuality.

Wurst rejected the boos, calling them “incomprehensible,” and noted that Gagarina “cannot be blamed for the rules” in her home country.

Promoting homosexuality is against the law in Russia. Many there view Wurst as a threat to traditional family values, and a win by Gagarina would have brought the event to Moscow, a scenario viewed with alarm by the Orthodox Church.

Patriarch Kirill, in comments to Russian news agencies, warned ahead of the event of “all those bearded female singers,” declaring that acts such as Wurst’s promote values “repulsive to our soul and culture.”

The Austrian star took such comments in stride, saying, “I would have come” had Russia won.

About 200 million people watched on TV as the 27 finalists, the most ever, battled it out musically. Approximately 10,000 people followed the contest live in Vienna’s mammoth Stadthalle, with 25,000 others crowding the main public viewing venue in front of Vienna’s City Hall.

Beyond Abba, other Eurovision winners who went on to pop fame are Celine Dion and Johnny Logan, who triumphed three times as a performer and songwriter.

The hosts of the spectacle announced that the event had been officially inducted into the Guinness Book of Records as the longest-running annual TV music competition.

Swedish peace activists launch ‘gay’ sonar to deter Russian subs

Swedish peace activists who argue that military hardware isn’t the best way to deter Russian submarines have launched their own underwater defense installation: a gay-themed sonar system.

In a publicity stunt dubbed “Operation The Singing Sailor,” the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society placed a sonar device in the Stockholm archipelago sending out a Morse code message saying “This way if you are gay.”

The device also features a neon sign with a sailor waving a white flag and the words “Welcome to Sweden — Gay since 1944” — the year Sweden legalized homosexuality. 

The group is urging the Swedish government to resist calls for re-armament after a weeklong hunt in October for a suspected Russian submarine, saying “love and peace across boundaries is more important than ever.”

Sweden’s sports minister skipping Sochi ceremony

Sweden’s sports minister says she will snub the opening ceremony at the Sochi Olympics for political reasons.

In an interview with state broadcaster SVT, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth says human rights are important and her decision to skip the Feb. 7 ceremony should be seen as a “political marker.”

Liljeroth says she will attend the Olympics themselves to support Sweden’s athletes.

Adelsohn Liljeroth, a member of Sweden’s ruling Conservative Party, called the opening ceremony a “propaganda stunt” by President Vladimir Putin. She said there are many unanswered questions about the cost of the event and its impact on the environment.

Activists have called for a boycott of the games amid concerns for the environment, Russia’s human rights record and the anti-gay law enacted last year.

Adelsohn Liljeroth spoke out at a time when Stockholm is bidding for the 2022 Winter Games.

Madison presents a grand opera of a ball

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil that befalls any opera character who succumbs to forbidden desires. 

Unfortunately, as King Gustav III of Sweden learned, that prayer doesn’t always make things right, even when the character is innocent.

The story of the trials, tribulation and untimely demise of the king of Sweden unfolds amid the glorious music of Giuseppe Verdi in Madison Opera’s production of “A Masked Ball.” The opera dramatizes the true-life assassination of King Gustav in a narrative in which the king’s love for his best friend’s wife leads to his murder.

Gustav, who ruled from 1771 to 1792, was a social progressive for his time. He legalized the practice of Catholicism and Judaism and enacted wide-ranging economic and social reforms, including the curtailment of torture and capital punishment. 

The monarch was shot at a masked ball in 1792 and died of his wounds 13 days later. His dramatic story was the subject of several earlier plays and operas.

Verdi’s work opens the Opera’s “Season of Temptation” with two performances on Oct. 26 and Oct. 28 at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts. Even though “A Masked Ball” is considered one the grandest of all grand operas, this production marks the first the company has performed it, according to Kathryn Smith, Madison Opera’s general director.

“Any Verdi opera requires amazing singers, a large orchestra and chorus, and elaborate costumes and scenery, so an opera company can only produce one every few years,” Smith says. “‘A Masked Ball’ is actually a favorite of many people in the opera world, but its sheer scale often puts it on a company’s wish list.” 

Tackling the production’s artistic challenges is no easy feat, agrees Madison Opera artistic director John DeMain.

“The singing is opulent and extremely demanding, which makes the opera more difficult to produce, so it doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as ‘La Traviata’ or ‘Rigoletto,’” says DeMain, who also is artistic director and maestro for the Madison Symphony Orchestra. “But it is musically on a par with Verdi’s later operas like ‘Aida’ and ‘Don Carlo.’” 

Filling the solo roles in the production are some of opera’s top talent, including some rising stars who will be making their Madison Opera debut, DeMain says.

“I’m hoping that we will be unveiling a major star in the making with our leading lady Alexandra LoBianco as Amelia, a soprano who has just recently moved into this big dramatic repertoire,” DeMain says. “Her voice is big, beautiful and able to go from thrilling fortissimos to ravishing pianissimi.

“And I think you will thrill to the sound of Jeniece Golbourne’s contralto chest sounds, which are ideal for the sorceress Ulrica,” he adds.

Veteran tenor William Joyner, who appeared as Old Galileo in last year’s production of “Galileo Galilei,” portrays King Gustav. Powerful baritone Hyung Yun, who last appeared as the title character in the opera’s “Eugene Onegin,” returns to the stage as Anckarstöm, Gustav’s best friend-cum-assassin.

“William Joyner has the requisite power and flexibility to sing this role with its extremes of vocal character, and there’s no question that Hyung Yun’s great baritone voice is on a rapid ascent as he takes on these heavier, more demanding roles,” DeMain says.

Verdi’s 1859 opera began its production history on a controversial note. Censors in Italy and France opposed the original version for depicting the murder of a monarch on stage.

“Verdi’s ultimate solution was to make the subject a count rather than a king and move the setting to Boston during the colonial period,” DeMain explains. “This weakened the effect of the opulent backdrop of the Swedish court, but finally passed muster with the censors. Today, productions often restore the setting to Sweden and the real characters that prompted the libretto in the first place.”

Madison Opera’s production restores the opulence, featuring scenery designed by R. Keith Brumley and costumes by Suzanne Mess. Maestro DeMain will conduct members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Audience members interested in greater insights into the work can participate in discussions before and after each of the two performances. A preview discussion scheduled for 1 p.m. on Oct. 21 at the UW-Madison Biochemistry Building, Room 1125, will offer insights and behind-the-scenes perspectives by Smith, DeMain and members of the cast.

“A Masked Ball” is the perfect production to launch a “Season of Temptation,” Smith says, because King Gustav does not give into the temptations that might require him to sacrifice his crown. The characters in the season’s remaining two operas are not quite so well-behaved.

“The characters in Handel’s ‘Acis and Galatea’ and Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ do not resist temptation,” says Smith. “Don Giovanni, in particular, indulges in every temptation that comes his way, to an exciting and slightly dangerous effect.”

Madison Opera Season at a Glance

Verdi’s “A Masked Ball” – Oct. 26, Oct. 28

Handel’s “Acis and Galatea” – Jan. 10-13

Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” – April 26, April 28

Champion skier officially comes out

Former Olympic gold medalist Anja Paerson, who retired earlier this year, says she is in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend Filippa, ending years of speculation regarding her private life.

The 31-year-old Paerson made the relationship public while hosting a summer talk-show on Swedish Radio, whose celebrity hosts rotate each day.

Paerson says “I’m now throwing myself down the steepest hill of my life.”

The program was pre-recorded on June 7, but was not broadcast until the weekend.

Paerson won 19 medals at major championships – six at the Olympics including gold in 2006 and 13 at the worlds. She has won 42 World Cup races since debuting in 1998, clinching overall titles in 2004 and ‘05.

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Denmark approves gay weddings in church

Denmark’s Parliament has approved a law allowing same-sex couples to get married in formal church weddings instead of the short blessing ceremonies that the state’s Lutheran Church currently offers.

Lawmakers voted 85-24 this last week to change Denmark’s marriage laws.

The law takes effect June 15 and will put Denmark on par with countries such as Iceland and Sweden that allow full wedding ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

In 1989, Denmark became the first country to allow the registration of gay partnerships. Since 1997 gay couples in Denmark can be wed in special blessing ceremonies at the end of regular church service.

European Court: Sweden can fine for anti-gay leaflets

The European Court of Human Rights has upheld Sweden’s fines levied against four people who circulated anti-gay leaflets in high schools.

The EC ruling stems from a December 2004 incident.

Court records state that National Youth members Tor Fredrik Vejdeland, Mattias Harlin, Bjorn Tang and Niklas Lundstrom, who were in their 20s and teens at the time, distributed leaflets declaring homosexuality is a “deviant sexual proclivity” with a “morally destructive effect on the substance of society.”

The leaflets also blamed gays for HIV/AIDS and said a “homosexual lobby” was downplaying pedophilia.

The foursome dropped the leaflets in lockers at a secondary school in Soderhamn.

A case was brought against the young people and, in 2006, Sweden’s highest court convicted them of agitation against a national group – gays.

Three of the defendants received suspended sentences and a fourth received probation.

The court also imposed fines – as low as $260 and as high as $2,600.

An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, filed in January 2007, claimed the “free expression” right to distribute the leaflets.

But the EC, in a chamber judgment, sided with the Swedish court in Vejdeland and Others v. Sweden.

The court “found that these statements had constituted serious and prejudicial allegations, even if they had not been a direct call to hateful acts.”

Also, the court stressed that discrimination based on sexual orientation is as serious as discrimination based on “race, origin or colour.”

In a press statement, the EC court said, “While acknowledging the applicants’ right to express their ideas, the Supreme Court had found that the leaflets’ statements had been unnecessarily offensive. It had further emphasised that the applicants had imposed the leaflets on the pupils by leaving them on or in their lockers. The court noted that the pupils had been at an impressionable and sensitive age and that the distribution of the leaflets had taken place at a school which none of the applicants attended and to which they did not have free access.”

The EC, in conjunction with its opinion, also released a fact sheet on hate speech.

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Group opposes Swedish sterilization law

The Human Rights Watch continues to press government officials in Sweden to repeal a law requiring that transgender people who want to change the gender designated on legal documents prove they are sterile.

Swedish law dating back to 1972 states that transgender people who want to change the gender assigned at birth in government documents prove they are unable to procreate.

HRW, in a letter to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, said the law is out of step with international best practices and international human rights law.

“The Swedish law causes anguish for transgender people who choose not to have the required surgery, which involves an invasive medical procedure, for various reasons, such as out of a wish to one day become parents,” the letter stated. “Their identification documents do not match their gender identity and gender expression. This leads to frequent public humiliation, vulnerability to discrimination, and great difficulty in finding or holding a job. There are many occasions where people in Sweden need to show their identification documents. Often transgender people are called to explain how it is possible that their official document (with male or female on it) does not match their appearance.”

Several European countries – Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Spain – already have done away with a requirement of forced sterilization.

But the rule remains in Sweden and The Netherlands.

“The Swedish government should follow the example of the group of enlightened countries,” HRW stated, noting that the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare proposed reform last May.