During his lifetime, Richard Wagner’s (1813–1883) only visit to the Nordic countries was to Norway: in July of 1839 his ship Thetis was caught in a storm and sought refuge in Sandvika. There is also a legend that Wagner visited the Imatra rapids in eastern Finland during his stay in St. Petersburg in 1863.
Wagner’s music, however, not only visited the Nordic countries, but also became a permanent resident in the national opera houses there. Rienzi was first performed in Stockholm in 1865, followed by Der Fliegende Holländer (1872), Lohengrin (1874) and Tannhäuser (1878). The Royal Opera in Copenhagen began its Wagner performances with Lohengrin (1870), soon followed by Die Meistersinger (1872) and Tannhäuser (1875). In Kristiania and Helsinki regular Wagner performances started much later, as national opera institutions with regular programmes began only in the 20th century. However, touring or temporary companies performed Wagner for Nordic audiences, for instance, in Finland with Tannhäuser (Helsinki, 1857). The first Wagner opera performed in Riga was Der fliegende Holländer (1843) and in Tallinn, Tannhäuser (1853). Lohengrin reached St. Petersburg in 1868.
Several singers originating in the Nordic countries made unforgettable careers thanks to Wagner repertoire, including Olive Fremstad (1871–1951), Lauritz Melchior (1890–1973), Kirsten Flagstad (1895–1962), Birgit Nilsson (1918–2005) and Anita Välkki (1926–2011). In addition to singers, many conductors, such as Armas Järnefelt (1869–1958), and stage directors, including Stefan Herheim (b. 1970) and Kasper Holten (b. 1973), have developed a special attachment to Wagner’s operas.
- Keynote speakers: Barry Millington (UK), Hannu Salmi (Finland) and Eero Tarasti (Finland). The inauguration of the conference: Tiina Rosenberg, the rector for the University of the Arts Helsinki.