Mimi Goes Glamping is a wonderful celebration of opera, camping and fine food in Northern Norway, finds Susan Nickalls
On the descent to Førde airport, the mountain airstreams buffeting the plane make it feel like we’re crossing an invisible boundary into an enchanted land. In the valley below, a sapphire-blue river glitters its way to the distant fjord as we disconcertingly skim over farmhouse roofs to land on the hillside above.
It’s a fittingly dramatic start to a weekend of opera-centred activities set amidst some of the west coast of Norway’s most magnificent scenery. Mimi Goes Glamping is a new weekend festival set up by Bergen National Opera, in collaboration with Åmot Country Villa and Operagard (opera farm), for those who love opera, gourmet food and the great outdoors. As well as several gala concerts offering the chance to hear internationally renowned musicians and singers, there’s also Jogging for Divas, Yoga and Puccini and, ‘glamping’ under the stars.
Åmot is located in the small village of Bygstad, around 100 miles north of Bergen, and was originally a dairy farm. When Steinar Sørli inherited it in 2003, he decided, together with his partner Yngve Brakstad, to restore the original 1890s villa as a luxurious boutique hotel and convert the cow barn into spaces for performances and fine dining. Opera is an obvious fit as the whole farm is like a living set, with the hundreds of people attending from neighbouring villages and as far afield as Oslo and Bergen all part of the festival action.
The opening concerts by Bjarte Eike’s nine-strong Scandinavian/British early music ensemble, Barokksolistene are superb. The Early Joke is a lively music theatre piece featuring a Venetian carnival troop while the after-dinner cabaret, The Alehouse, is a rambunctious reimagining of a 17th century pub night out.
Afterwards we follow colourful onion-domed lights up a path behind the farm to a roaring hill-top campfire. Toasting marshmallows and chatting with the performers is a perfect end to a brilliant evening’s entertainment.
Nevertheless, I’m pleased to get to my bed in the villa’s sumptuous Kiri Suite, named after soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who gave a performance in the barn, went fishing, caught a salmon and cooked it during her stay at Åmot in 2009.
Åmot is renowned for its delicious food, mostly sourced from the farm’s kitchen garden and other local producers. On Saturday morning, while the more energetic folk are out jogging and kayaking, I make up the quartet in the kitchen for the baking workshop with chef Håvard Flatlands. We’re making pink macarons because Håvard likes the Aerosmith song Pink.
The morning’s baking is to accompany the Tea Concert, complete with food-related repertoire, in the upstairs dining area.
It’s all smooth sailing in the afternoon for Arias on the Fjord when around 20 of us set sail in Bakkejekta, a replica of a 1750 Viking boat, beautifully serenaded by two young singers. There are also plenty of salty stories from the sailors. In the ninth century a family living further up the Dalsfjorden apparently did a moonlight flit in a boat similar to this after the King of Norway took a shine to their daughter, who was betrothed to a local man. The family were the first settlers in Reykjavik and also the Faroe Islands en route where they abandoned the seasick passengers. This fjord and the surrounding area, including the 1871 Osen salmon stairs at Bygstad which are the oldest in the world, is still a popular holiday destination for Norwegian royalty and politicians.
Sunday is gloriously sunny for the last day of Mimi Goes Glamping with music events and talks taking place against the backdrop of a local market. In the tents lining the driveway, there are signs to smak (taste) a range of appetising local produce from venison burgers to Brun Undredal, a goat’s cheese that looks and tastes like fudge.
All too soon it’s time to depart this idyll, the fading landscape of snow-sprinkled mountains and ice-lidded tarns disappearing from view on the flight home.
• Førde is the nearest airport and Wideroe (www.wideroe.no) fly from Aberdeen to Førde via Bergen. The airline also has flights from Oslo and Bergen. Norwegian (www.norwegian.com) offer flights from Edinburgh/
Glasgow to Oslo or Bergen. Susan Nickalls was a guest of the Norwegian Government, and stayed at Åmot Country Villa, www.aamotcountryvilla.com; www.Mimigoesglamping.no; www.visitnorway.com/en/where-to-go/fjord-norway/sunnfjord