Tartu Ülikool

The Swedish 18th century drama has a special connection to Estonia

On 24 March, leading scholars meet in Tartu for a symposium on Scandinavian studies to start an international research project on the 18th Century Swedish drama and its birth in Estonia. The symposium will be followed by a public presentation and a musical performance.

In December 2022, Riksbankens Jubileumsfond decided to fund a research project on the 18th-century Swedish drama. While Swedish literature is internationally famous for its dramas from the decades around the year 1900, with August Strindberg as the leading name, the Swedish dramas from the 18th century are very little explored. However, a lot was written and performed, and it was a necessary foundation for the later, more well-known development.

The Swedish 18th-century drama has a special connection to Estonia: the very first of the Swedish plays from the 18th century was written and performed here. Glädje Spel och Ähre-Sång, ‘Play of Joy and Song of Honour’, was performed on 28 January 1701 at the castle of Lais (Laiuse ordulinnus in Estonian), where King Charles XII spent several months following his victory in the battle of Narva in November 1700. The text of Glädje Spel was also accompanied by music and was called opera on its title page, which makes it the first Swedish opera ever.

It is indeed a remarkable fact that such a landmark in the history of Swedish literature was created in Estonia, underscoring the vital importance of Estonia for Swedish culture and history. The play's text combines contemporary motifs, such as hunting scenes in the woods around Lais with Estonian soldiers. In one of the choirs sung by Estonian girls, some lines are in- the Estonian language, although the text as a whole is in Swedish.

The project is administrated by the University of Tartu and led by Professor Daniel Sävborg from the Department of Scandinavian Studies. The project includes Swedish and Italian scholars and Estonian students. It will examine many important works for the first time. The leading role of the University of Tartu and the participation of international scholars will contribute to the development of academic cooperation between Estonia and Sweden. On 23-25 March, the project group gathers in Tartu for a symposium.

The symposium will take place on 24 March from 9:00 to 16:00 in Lossi 3, room 406, where the participants will present their ongoing research within the project and plan the future activities of the project. The leading experts on Swedish 18th-century literature, such as Professor Marie-Christine Skuncke and Professor Roland Lysell, will present their ongoing research. The symposium organiser and project leader is Professor Daniel Sävborg from the Department of Scandinavian Studies. The symposium will be in Swedish and is mainly intended for the invited project members, who will present their ideas and work.

The symposium will be followed by a public presentation and a musical performance on 24 March from 16:00 to 17:30 in Jakobi 2, room 114In the presentation, the organiser of the symposium, professor Daniel Sävborg, will introduce the project and the play Glädje Spel och Ähre-Sång. The presentation will be in English. In the musical performance, soprano Hermine Aints sings songs from the play "Lykkoprijs" (1689) by Isaac Börk, who studied in Tartu. Everyone interested is welcome to listen to the presentation and the musical performance. 

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