Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Peer Gynt is a play by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It was written in 1867, and first performed in Oslo (then called Christiania) on 24 February 1876, with incidental music by the composer Edvard Grieg.
Unlike Ibsen's well-known later plays, Peer Gynt is written in verse. This is because it was originally intended to be a written drama, not for stage performance. It is also unlike the later plays in that it is a fantasy rather than a realistic tragedy.
If Peer Gynt can be considered as a bittersweet play about an anti-hero that sets out to defy the world, spoils everything he encounters, and only at the end of his life discovers how lonely he has been through it all - then it can be said there is more bitter than sweet in the mixture: in this way it is not unlike the sometimes harsh social criticism that speaks from Ibsen's other plays.
Ibsen asked Edvard Grieg to compose incidental music for the play. As Ibsen's (long) play is quite an undertaking to put on stage (so it was soon rather read than staged), and since some parts of Grieg's incidental music had that ineffable quality that destined it to become an all-time classic, this music started to lead a life of its own: Grieg extracted two suites of four pieces each from the incidental music (Opus 46 and Opus 55), that became very popular as concert music. Only one of the sung parts of the incidental music ended up in these suites (last part of 2nd suite, Solveig's Song, the solo part now rather played by violin than sung).
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