Nothing is more tragic than a human being | contemporary opera

Happiness, and humanity’s endless pursuit of it, is the subject matter of this new Icelandic contemporary opera by the composer Friðrik Margrétar-Guðmundsson, written and directed by Adolf Smári Unnarsson. The opera, which premiered in September 2020 at Tjarnarbíó theater, received seven nominations for Gríman, the annual Icelandic theatre awards — including Show of the year, Director of the year, and Music of the year. The opera won two awards: Music of the year (Friðrik Margrétar-Guðmundsson) and Singer of the year (María Sól Ingólfsdóttir). The opera also received a nomination for the Icelandic Music Awards 2021 as the Musical Event of the Year in classical and contemporary music.


Four figures parade around the stage, searching for meaning and contemplating what brings them joy. But the answers are nowhere to be found because nothing is more tragic than the human being. The figures try every trick in the book without the desired results. But they’re only human, and again, nothing is more tragic than the human being. Life: An agonizingly funny tragedy, a constant disappointment. So, what can be done? We evaluate! We opt for creative solutions, streamlined procedures. And if everything fails? Simply sit down, take a deep breath and fill your lungs with air – breathe out with a whistling sound. Repeat until success has been achieved. Everything will work out. It has to.


The opera was critically acclaimed by the press. Fréttablaðið, in addition with the cultural programme Lestin at the National Broadcast, named it as the “Theatrical highlight of the year.” Fréttablaðið gave the work four and a half stars and Morgunblaðið three and a half stars, pointing out Adolf‘s directorial force: “Adolf Smári’s staging is another element where total control gets to shine. The work is choreographed down to the tiniest detail, the movements are strictly disciplined, and that discipline never challenged.”


Composer: Friðrik Margrétar-Guðmundsson
Text and direction: Adolf Smári Unnarsson
Performers: Dagur Þorgrímsson, Heiðdís Hanna Sigurðardóttir, María Sól Ingólfsdóttir, Ólafur Freyr Birkisson
Stage and costume design: Bryndís Ósk. Þ. Ingvarsdóttir
Dramaturgy: Matthías Tryggvi Haraldsson
Light designer: Hafliði Emil Barðason
Video designer: Elmar Þórarinsson
Conductor: Pétur Björnsson
Assistant director: Magnús Thorlacius
Graphic design: Gréta Þorkelsdóttir
Photography: Gunnlöð Jóna Rúnarsdóttir
Chamber orchestra: Baldvin Ingvar Tryggvason, Björg Brjánsdóttir, Flemming Viðar Valmundsson, Pétur Björnsson, Unnur Jónsdóttir