Cristina Lindgren and Hanne Dieserud, the founders and creators of a baby opera and musical theatre company for children under the age of three, discuss how they engage babies with music and art. They will also provide a little insight on why Norway has some of the happiest and smartest children in the world!
Full Interview Transcript
Kelly: Today we’re here with Christina Lindgren and Hannah Dieserud, who are the founders of a baby opera and musical theater company for children under the age of three. They just flew in from Norway for the American premiere of their performance “Up in the Mountains” and are here to tell us how they engage babies with music and art. They will also provide a little insight on why Norway has some of the happiest and smartest children in the world.
Thank so much for being here. What did you find challenging about creating something to appeal to this young audience?
Hanne: We knew that we had to keep it simple and simple not in the sense of complexity but in the sense of clarity. You don’t have to do baby language. When you make a movement you have to sort of be very aware of how you begin it and where you end. It has to be very distinct, clear and then with an intention, very clear intention. So as a performer this quite challenging because you have nothing to hide behind. You have to be very sharp all the time.
Christina: And present.
Kelly: You had mentioned that in Europe it’s very popular to have performances targeted at ages zero to three. Why do you think that is?
Cristina: So when the human rights for children was introduced and it said that children can perceive art and can have a right for culture, for education, then they started to say, “what does it mean that children can have a rightful culture?” “And what if a child is a child actually a human being from the day it’s born?” “Or even earlier?” But it’s a, so they have the rights for culture from the day they’re born. So that’s when they started to make performances for this age group. And I think that in Europe performances for this age group is just a sign that people maybe have another view on their children, that they are human beings from the very beginning and they have an emotional and spiritual and intellectual capacity.
Kelly: So, tell us more about this specific of production here “Up in the Mountains”.
Hanne: It’s actually based on a very well-known European-English fairytale. And so we took out a parts of that and the composer got a recording of it in an ancient language of this fairytale. And the composer took fragments of this fairytale recording and created a new story based on that. But it’s not a story that is to be understood through language, because no one understands the language, but is told still told as if everyone would understand, but not through the words.
Kelly: Is that because of the age group that is targeting? It is that the idea?
Cristina: Yes! But also we’re interested in exploring other ways that theater can communicate. (Baby language presentation) And we believe that theater can communicate. We believe that theatre can communicate not only with words and understanding the logic and the story but also through movement, through gestures, through mimic, facial expression.
Kelly: So, the theater, the performance itself is intended to bring the adult and the child together? It’s kind of for both of them? Is that the thought behind it?
Hanne: Yes! Absolutely, we reach out for the grownups also. That is very important for us because we didn’t want to make anything where the adults are looking down on the youngsters and trying to teach them something. We wanted them to be on the same level and be curious and explore for themselves. So they can leave the child alone in their own experience.
Kelly: How do you feel like culture impacts their intelligence and development of the child of that age?
Cristina: I think that they I think maybe the strongest benefit is that the grown ups see that the children have this ability. They see and say oh it’s not, I don’t have to give them only food and drink but we can have a cultural experience together and they can perceive art and they are open for it. I think that’s the primary outcome of these performances is that adults actually experience the children as intellectual and spiritual beings.
Kelly: So, that leads me to another question. I read these articles, such as U.S. News and World Report that talks about how Norway is one of the smartest countries in the world with the highest per capita of geniuses. You also read stories where Norway has some of the happiest children in the world. Why do you think that is? I mean what is different about the way that you approach parenting or child development that we might not be doing some place else.
Hanne: The playground and that we have so much nature and there is maybe a bigger sense of freedom physically because we have all this space. And maybe they have more space also to be by themselves. Because that is very important.
Cristina: And also that the whole politics because the parents, the mother or the father, they are allowed to share what you call the parental leave.
Kelly: Parental leave
Cristina: The parental leave and it’s also support from the state one-year parental leave.
Kelly: Wow! So then in terms of the parent engagement though do you think it’s important for parents to sing to their children.
Kelly: What if they can’t sing though?
Hanne: Everybody can sing. (And also) the freedom to express yourself it can be it can be any kind of expression.
Cristina: Also I think that that we should also expand what is music. Sound in itself is interesting for the children and the children are very focused on what they’re hearing. Just play with the sounds you have that we’re surrounded with is stimulating and making them. It can be a fun game.
Cristina: It doesn’t have to be simple. It can be very complicated and complex music children can enjoy that as well.
Hanne: They like what you like
Kelly: You think so?
Hanne: Yes! They do because they want to share that experience with you.
Kelly: It’s all about sharing.
Hanne: Yeah, it’s all about sharing.
Kelly: That’s what your performance was all about making sure that everyone’s on the same level and everyone is sharing.
Hanne: That’s kind why we made tents in two of our performances. We have tents in “Up in the Mountains”. We have just 45 people in the audience to make this intimate atmosphere and the tent is to secure that and so that we have of control of all the senses and that nothing can interrupt.
Cristina: It’s also sitting like sitting around a bonfire. So we are together and focused and concentrated.
Hanne: There was a sense that something extraordinary is going to happen, something magical, not every day. Sense that this is something special.
Kelly: Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me and learn about your vision and what you’re doing. And I’m really excited to see it.
Cristina: Thank you.
About Christina Lindgren and Hanne Dieserud
Christina Lindgren and Hanne Dieserud are the creators of three interactive performances for infants to 3 year olds. They strongly hold the belief that children can perceive as complex constructions and compositions as adults. They want to stimulate a curious, solemn experience with a strong and distinct stage presence. The shows aim to appeal to all senses and the fascination for the unknown. The shows are made just as much for adults. Both performances last 20 minutes and take place in tents designed for each performance. The tents can hold 45 people and are placed in foyers of the theatre/ opera/ concert hall. The spaces allow adults to experience the performance from the perspective of their child. For more information, visit, babyopera.no.