1905 illustration from ‘Prins Hatt under jorden’, the Swedish fairy tale on which the opera is based

‘Det sjungande trädet’ (The Singing Tree) Op.110 is an opera in two acts composed between 1986 and 1988 by Finnish composer Erik Bergman that was awarded the 1994 ‘Nordic Council Music Prize’. The Swedish-language libretto, based on a Swedish fairy tale, was written by Bo Carpelan. The opera premiered on 3 September 1995 at the ‘Helsinki Opera House’. ‘Det sjungande trädet’ was Bergman’s only full-length opera and was a commission from the ‘Finnish National Opera’. Carpelan’s libretto is primarily based on the Swedish fairy tale ‘Prins Hatt under jorden’ (Prince Hatt under the Ground; itself based on the ancient myth of ‘Cupid and Psyche’), but it also incorporates other elements from Swedish and Finnish folk tales. The opera had been originally commissioned for the opening season of the new ‘Helsinki Opera House’ in 1993/94, but the complex structure of the work with 22 separate scenes, each with its own lighting and other technical requirements, led to a postponement of the premiere: it was recorded in 1992 at Finlandia Hall conducted by Ulf Söderblom and released on the Ondine label. It received its first staged performance on 3 September 1995 at the ‘Helsinki Opera House’ as part of the Helsinki Festival, again conducted by Söderblom. It was performed again in 1999 at the ‘Deutsche Oper Berlin’ in a touring production by the Finnish National Opera.
The opera’s two acts are structured in a sequence of 22 tableaux with a prologue, interlude, and epilogue. They recount the story of Prince Hatt, who has been imprisoned underground by his aunt, the Witch, and is rescued by an unnamed Princess. The Princess first communicates with Prince Hatt by singing “The Tree of Life”, which they both hear in their dreams. The Witch is ultimately destroyed by “the power of light” and the couple are united. However, the ending is not a completely happy one, as the Princess is struck blind by the dying curse of the Witch.