SPONSORSHIP: Volvo supports the cultural and artistic life of its home town Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city
by Kate Holman
The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (familiarly known as the GSO) and the Gothenburg Opera (Göteborg Opera) both enjoy vital, long-term backing from the Volvo Group. “Volvo’s sponsorship is one of the reasons that the Gothenburg Opera exists,” says the opera company’s business development director Jessica Malmsten. “It’s a very important partnership.”
Together, the two musical organizations form important pillars of Gothenburg’s – and indeed Sweden’s – cultural identity. In 1997, GSO was named the National Orchestra of Sweden, recognizing its achievements in raising awareness of Nordic composers and their music around the world. Volvo’s sponsorship has helped them both to establish and develop global reputations for artistic excellence.
“It helps in many, many ways,” says Norwegian Sten Cranner, who was appointed in November 2014 as GSO’s managing and artistic director. “It enables us to go beyond our core product and fulfill extraordinary projects. It’s an extra boost.
“My aim is to make the GSO and the extensive activities in the Gothenburg Concert Hall an important part of life for every citizen in the city and the region,” he adds.
“The orchestra should also continue to play an essential part in Sweden’s musical life, and strengthen its international reputation.”
“We are helping to make Gothenburg an attractive city to live in,” agrees Malmsten. “Through music, theater and dance we hope to improve people’s quality of life.”
Cultural support and sponsorship is part of the Volvo brand, underlining the company’s concern for the welfare of its employees and their communities, across all aspects of their lives. Since 1983, it has become the GSO’s main sponsor, and is one of four top supporters of the Opera.
The GSO was founded in 1905, but has experienced moments of drama in its 110-year-long history. Its original home was burnt to the ground in the 1920s, and replaced by the existing Gothenburg Concert Hall. Finished in 1935, it is renowned for its ground-breaking architecture and fine acoustics. The main hall is lined with hundreds of golden sycamore maple panels, which reflect sound without distortion.
Since then, the GSO has doubled in size, and now comprises 109 musicians. A further 86 players, 22 soloists, 46 chorus singers and 38 dancers make up the artistic staff at the Gothenburg Opera. Collaboration between the two groups of artists is growing. During the next two years, several joint projects are planned, including a co-production in 2017 in which opera stars will perform in the Concert Hall. “We have a very healthy and concrete relationship,” says Cranner.
The home of the Gothenburg Opera is an equally impressive building. Volvo was the first company to support construction of the new Opera House, inaugurated in October 1994 and renovated in 2009, which stands on the city’s waterfront. It welcomes 250,000 visitors a year to some 270 performances, including dance, musicals and concerts. Its aim is to reach people of all ages and backgrounds, and encourage them to get involved in the creative process.
For example, last season, in collaboration with the Red Cross, it organized a workshop with a group of newly arrived refugees in Sweden, in which they created new works based on their own experiences.
“We want to build an artistic community that extends to the parts of society that do not always have a voice among the established cultural institutions,” says opera/drama artistic director Stephen Langridge. “We take this side of our work very seriously.”
TOP OF THE BILL
Safeguarding the local environment is another concern, so as well as installing beehives on the roof, the Opera works hard, through generating solar energy and waste recycling, to minimize its impact on the environment.
The GSO is equally active in the community – both in Sweden and abroad. In April 2015, with Volvo’s backing, the orchestra toured five Chinese cities, and the musicians were particularly proud to be able to perform for young patients in Shanghai children’s hospital.
Over the years, the GSO has been led by a number of outstanding musicians. In 1907, its principal conductor was the renowned Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar, and both Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius have conducted their own works. The current guest conductor is American Kent Nagano, while the artist in residence, Canadian conductor and soprano Barbara Hannigan, is one of the world’s leading performers of contemporary opera.
Volvo’s backing is helping both organizations to prepare a stellar program of events in the coming months. The GSO, which has already performed in the USA, Japan, and the Far East, is on tour in Germany in November. December will mark the start of the Sibelius festival. “We will be performing all the symphonies of Sibelius within one week,” explains Nagano.
The Gothenburg Opera’s offering ranges from the first performance of Alfred Hitchcock’s spy thriller ‘Notorious’ as opera with the world’s leading dramatic soprano Nina Stemme in the principal role, to Gershwin’s ‘Crazy for You’, to a celebration of the works of Shakespeare in 2016 – 400 years after the writer’s death – with concerts and operas based on Hamlet and Macbeth. Dance is another important string to the Opera’s bow, and the Danskompani, led by dance artistic director Adolphe Binder, has won international acclaim and worked with top choreographers such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
GSO is proud to be in the vanguard of digital musical transmission, with free livestreaming of concerts and video on demand, together with interviews and backstage chat.
“Our digital concert hall can be watched around the world,” declares Cranner. It is available at www.gsoplay.se