The Royal Academic Orchestra
The Royal Academic Orchestra is Uppsala University’s symphony orchestra. Both the University and its orchestra are deeply rooted in history. Uppsala University, established in 1477, is the oldest in the Nordic countries, and its orchestra, which is mentioned in extant sources for the first time in 1627, is among the oldest in Europe. From the beginning it was predominantly a vocal ensemble, but with the advent of new baroque stylistic ideals this chorus was gradually turned into a purely instrumental ensemble under the leadership of the University’s director musices. Its duties were primarily to provide music at academic festivities, such as conferment ceremonies and inaugurations of vice-chancellors, but also on religious and national holidays. In the rich musical life that emerged in the 19th century, the Royal Academic Orchestra was frequently heard, in public concerts with the University’s newly established choirs, and it developed into a more and more consummate symphony orchestra. In recent centuries the position as director musices has been held by some of Sweden’s foremost composers, including Christian Friedrich Haeffner, Hugo Alfvén, and Lars Erik Larsson.
Opera and videogame music
Since 2002 the Royal Academic Orchestra has been led by director musices Stefan Karpe, professor of orchestral conducting at Uppsala University. The great majority of the orchestra’s some 100 musicians are students at the University, including exchange students and visiting researchers from various parts of the world. Operations have intensified in terms of both participation in academic ceremonies and the orchestra’s own concerts, with a broad repertoire ranging from baroque music and symphonies of Beethoven, Schumann, and Mahler to film music, videogame music, and annual world premiers of works by Swedish composers, commissioned by the Royal Academic Orchestra. In the spring of 2008 a much-lauded production of Puccini’s Tosca was staged in collaboration with local choirs and internationally acclaimed soloists. The success resonated outside Sweden as well, and Stefan Karpe was selected to receive the Puccini International Award. A new operatic production was carried out in 2010, Verdi’s Otello, which was also extremely well received. In the fall of 2015 a huge production of Bernstein’s West Side Story was performed, also this project a success for the university.
Orchestra members at Musicum
Members of the Royal Academic Orchestra from a rehearsal at Musicum, May 4, 2019. Photo: Q IMAGE