Heroin Chic – Opera (in progress)

Composer Solveig Sørbø and librettist / author Maria Kjos Fonn join forces to create an operatic adaptation of the novel Heroin Chic.

Photo by Marco Verch, edited by Solveig Sørbø. Source

Elise comes from a musical home at Uranienborg in Oslo. Everything is seemingly safe, yet she wants to get away from home. She wants to be weightless, not leave traces. She tries everything. Asceticism, transgressions, too little too much. Finally it’s there. The intoxication that gives her everything she has wanted – namely nothing. To fade out, get numb. Heroin chic is an opera about a social descent without any clear cause. About a disorder that is not soiled by external circumstances. It is enough in itself. The essence.


About the librettist

Maria Kjos Fonn. Photographer: Oda Berby

Maria Kjos Fonn is one of Scandinavia’s most acclaimed authors. She has written short stories and novels all hailed by critics, and is a columnist in nationwide newspaper Morgenbladet, as well as in the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten. She has also written – and performed – various stage texts, performed with music. One of these performances, The Politics of Emotion, a performance with stage texts read to music by Sandra Kolstad, premiered at the House of Literature in September 2019, followed by a tour in Norway and Europe before it was performed at the guest pavilion in Frankfurt in October, and finally in Berlin. The performance was produced in cooperation with NORLA and the Norwegian Book Year.

Maria’s novel Kinderwhore (2018) was nominated to the 2018 Brage Prize and the 2018 P2 Listener’s Prize. For Heroin Chic (also nominated to the P2 Listeners´ Prize), Fonn received Mads Wiel Nygaards Legat and The Natt & Dag Literature Prize. Kinderwhore hass been translated into Danish and German, and Heroin Chic will be released in Danish and German in 2022.

About the composer

Solveig Sørbø

Solveig Sørbø is an autodidact composer, music producer and musician who makes chamber music, film scores, and alternative fusion. She has performed across Europe, is involved in an EEA project in Slovakia, and scored the film Hans + Liv (Norwegian National Broadcast) which lead to a collaboration with star violinist Catharina Chen and ECM artist Ayumi Tanaka. Solveig is interested in mixing symphonic sections with different sounds and tonalities and in exploring traditional folk instruments in a classical setting.

Besides her artistic activities, Solveig is an initiator of the music and science project MusicLab at the University of Oslo, which is supported by Norwegian Research Council and went international with a science concert featuring Danish String Quartet in October 2021. Solveig is also a host of the music show Solveigs Speisa Musikk (supported by the Norwegian Media Authority) airing on radiOrakel and also available as a podcast.

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Staging and aims

Key information:

Project title: Heroin Chic

Parts (mini / chamber / chapter / episode operas): Advent, Solstice, Elise’s Funeral

Project period: 2022-25

Themes: Death wish, substance abuse, addiction, anorexia, existential numbness, ritual suffering, death, light, darkness, promiscuity, mother-daughter relations, social descent and purification.

Instrumentation (flexible): string quintet with hardanger fiddle, santoor, harp, piano, organ and 5+ singers (soprano, mezzo soprano / lyric soprano, dramatic tenor, bass/baryton and a child soprano)

Financing so far: NOPA, TONO, Norwegian Society of Composers, Arts Council Norway

Dissemination: Festival-friendly mini operas, licencing to opera houses / companies, recording, publishing and distribution of libretto / score

Letters of intent: VoxLAB, Konsertserien Ekho, Oslo Operafestival, AD_VENT, Tuddal kultursenter, Akerselva kammermusikkfestival, Stavanger K&MFEST, Oslo Classics, Music and Theatre for All (several places in the UK), Ensemble Muzík at Teatro Monumental (Madrid)

The opera is realised in several sections beginning with a winter solstice concert where “Lullaby at Sunrise” was performed, followed by “Elise’s Lament” which was performed in Stavanger Concert Hall on the 4th August 2022. The next steps might involve working with different ensembles writing music for situations that entangle with the work in various ways. This way the opera evolves by meeting different performers and settings until it gets its final form. The work is threefold consisting of a street / club opera, a church opera and a stage opera. These can be performed as separate chamber operas, as episodes or as a full-length staged opera in three acts. At this stage the opera is produced by Solsnu (Solveig herself), but we also communicate with eligible producer contacts.

The project aims at investing the topics of addiction, promiscuity, death and light and make neoclassical operatic music accessible to people.

“Elise’s Funeral” (part 3)

The opera chapter “Elise’s Funeral” has received funding from Arts Council Norway and will be developed 2023. It is situated in Elise’s funeral in which she herself is a soloist singer. There will be flashbacks to her childhood (“Lucia“), her youth during which she suffered from an eating disorder (“Duet of Bones“), her recurring substance abuse and abstinences (“Heroin“), her death (“Lullaby at Sunrise“) and finally we are back to the funeral during which she performs “Elise’s Lament“.

Roles for singers

  • Elise (soprano)
  • Elise’s mother (mezzo-soprano or soprano)
  • Joakim (dramatic tenor)
  • Anorexia (bass/baryton)
  • Elise as a child (child soprano)

Elise, a young, talented and beautiful singer is characterized with being angel-like from the outside, but her soul is dark and numb, and she nourishes a death-wish but also a wish to always remain a child, she romanticizes anorexia and bodilessness while engaging in debauchery. The role’s tessitura and melodic style will vary with her age and with her deterioration.

Elise’s mother is warm and loving, but she essentially forsakes Elise by focussing on her success rather than the whole person. Her parts of the aria will be more harmonic, motherly and reassuring than those of Elise.

Joakim is Elise’s boyfriend. His role is sung by a tenor, and his vocal and melodic style will be hectic and rythmic, mirroring his roots in art rock and alternative subcultures.

Anorexia is embodied by a bass/baryton dressed in black. He is perhaps invisible to Elise, nevertheless he controls her. His singing will be dark, seductive and alluring.

From Elises klage (Elise’s Lament) (soprano and piano version)

Musicians (flexible)

  • One plucked instrument (theorbo, harp, lyre, lute)
  • Two bowed or wind instruments (hardanger fiddle, cello, double bass, horn)
  • One melodic percussion instrument (santur, vibraphone)
  • One keyboard instrument (piano)
  • Church organ / Electric organ

This will be discussed with the hosting / collaborating instutution(s).

The musicians can be integral to the action on stage. Their roles may change with the imagined changes of scenery, and they may have occasional spoken and / or sung lines which could eccho things said by other characters in the story, and also Elise’s subconscous thoughts and even her addiction. Using simple costume changes such as hoods and coats, along with smart lighting, their function as accompanying characters may change.

Timeline of production

The production will proceed in several stages. Firstly a series of arias and duets will be written for festivals and concert series (current period). Secondly, a short chamber version will be produced consisting of 1 aria and 3 duets with recitative and instrumental parts in between. After the chamber opera has premiered we will develop the work into a full-length opera.

  • Vocal work by xxxx.
  • Piano scores and study material for the chamber opera will be submitted xxxx
  • The final scores and parts will be submitted by xxxx
  • The premiere and further performances take place in xxxx.
  • Further development into a full-length opera, funding-dependent.
  • Festival-showings and workshops along the way.

During each stage we will collaborate with the designated artistic team and cast and find a direction together.

Past and upcoming performances:

VoxLAB, VårFEST, Biermannsgården, Oslo 27th February 2022: Voggesang ved soloppgang

Stavanger K&MFEST, Interactions, Integrations, Stavanger konserthus (Fartein Valen hall), Stavanger, 4th August 2022: Elises klage

VoxLAB, Sentralen, Oslo, 24th August 2022: Voggesang ved soloppgang

Fortellinger fra havet, Commission by ensemble Nereides (Heloïse Baldelli, Izabela Maroun and Laura Kern) where the theme is water. For this, Maria Kjos Fonn and Solveig Sørbø are creating 5 miniatures about water in relation to aspects of the opera. Festivals (TBC): Orfeus (SK), Nebrodi in Canto (IT) og Associazione Culturale Colle Ionci (IT).

Nordic themed concerts with Ensemble Aurōrae for hardanger fiddle, cello, piano and visuals. 

We also have several more commissions (TBC) and letters of intent (funding-dependent).

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to commission a piece for your own ensemble. Any instrumentation is of interest, and if you have an ongoing project we can look for connections between it and the opera. This is how Heroin Chic is bound to grow – in interaction with ideas, places and musicians. Here are some ideas from us that we know that we’d like to explore: choir piece with girls and men, mixed choir part, duet between soprano and baryton, aria with dramatic tenor. Get in touch if you are interested in these ideas or want to share yours.

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Example Scenes

Heroin Chic has religious undertones, and in the Christmas segment we explore “advent” as a framework for waiting for redemption – which is what Elise does when she’s hunting for a new dose. Elise’s sense of time running out, and wasted years, become clearer in a quiet advent season. In addition, Christmas reinforces the contrast to Elise’s memories of her happy childhood, and her loneliness and alienation. When Elise finally gets the shot, Elise comes as a child and wraps the adult Elise in a blanket. She sings an aria that symbolically points to Elise’s fall to the underground, while the soaring song and the child singer in a beautiful Christmas dress, contrasts it.


Work samples – Libretto

The following text samples are in Norwegian, but we trust that you will still be able to grasp their meaning, richness of symbols and musicality. We will discuss the issue of language with you should we get the project. We are open to many solutions, be it German language with help from a translator (in this case perhaps the translator of the German edition of the novel might offer some advice), an English version, or keeping it in Norwegian with subtitles.

Lucia – a duet between Elise and her mother

Roller: Elise som barn. rundt 11 år; moren hennes 
Roles: Elise as a child, around 11 years old; her mother 

Er jenta som leker med støv
med pulver og ulver
og brennende løv
Så skjør at jeg ikke kan falle
Sykest og sterkest av alle
Moren / The mother
Elise, du lille, du lyse
Nå må du ikke fryse
Skjelver du, lille alv
Ikke velt nå, ikke fall
Har en stemme som lyser
Og lyskrans, men jeg fryser
Jeg stråler og skinner
Gløder og tindrer
Og likevel er jeg kald
Et tomt og tindrende skall
Jeg vil være flink og snill
Men er snart iskald av ild
Moren / The mother
Ingenting er farlig
Bare du går varlig
Lister deg lett på tå
Svever, mer enn å gå
Ikke glippe, ikke tippe
Fremfor alt ikke slippe
Jeg holder vakt over deg mens du sover
Jeg passer på deg, jeg lover
Kan du pakke meg inn i et pledd?
Jeg lover, jeg er ikke redd
Jeg er din lille prinsesse og alv
Selv om hånda mi skalv
Moren / The mother
Hånda mi er åpen og hul
Der skal jeg holde deg, lille fugl
Passe på deg til du dør
Som prinsesser alltid gjør

Knokkelduett (Duet of Bones) – a duet between Elise and Anorexia

Roller: Elise, tretten år; Spiseforstyrrelsen, svartkledd skikkelse
Roles: Elise, around 13 years old; Anorexia, a person dressed in black

På bildet på peisen i stua
Er jeg den søteste, lille Lucia
Så vever og lys og lett
En skinnende vinner på stett
Nå vokser jeg ut av rammen
Hoftene, brystene, skammen
Jeg vet ikke hvor jeg skal gå
Jeg er vel en stor jente nå
Spiseforstyrrelsen / Anorexia
Du kan alltid være Lucia
Med hellig Anorexia
Hun skinte, men ble til slutt blind
Lys kropp og evig mørkt sinn
Det er et valg du kan velge
Å lukke munnen og svelget
Å si nei til sanselig næring
Og ja til din egen fortæring
Ikke jente, ikke ennå en kvinne
Et gap hvor jeg bare kan svinne
Et tomrom, uendelig hvelv
Hvor jeg legger fra meg meg selv
Å bli høy på å være svimmel
Synke mot en høyere himmel
Kledd i en kjole i hvitt
Sollys og små hvite snitt
Spiseforstyrrelsen / Anorexia
Kledd for bryllup, dåp og begravelse
En lyskrans rundt din begavelse
Flammen er blek og blå
Det er et tall på din nakne tå
Og tallet er lavt må du vite
Under førti, for dette er ritet
Vinneren sulter i hjel
En sjel uten kropp, en kropp uten sjel

Heroin – a duet between Elise and Joakim

Roller: Elise, begynnelsen av 20-årene; kjæresten Joakim
Roles: Elise, in the beginning of her twenties; her boyfriend Joakim

Flammen under en skje
Som jeg koker løsningen med
Putrer og sitrer
Mens pulsen forvitrer
Jeg vil ikke ha alibier
Må se om det er som de sier
At dopet i årene tørker ut tårene
Aldri mer saltvann i sårene

Jeg trodde vi kunne røyke og loke
Ikke junke det, ikke koke
Jeg trodde det holdt med folie
Men du var stressa, urolig
Å deale med dealere
Er ikke for tvilere
Du vil ha det mørkt og hardt
Brenne skjea helt svart
Følg blodsporene dit jeg ligger
Som en bikkje som tigger
Det er kanskje litt her til deg
Jeg deler med alle, jeg
Tornerose fikk et lite stikk
Hun sovnet mens årene gikk
Kyss meg så kanskje jeg våkner
Eller kanskje du også slokner

Elises klage (Elise’s Lament) – an aria performed by Elise

Roller: Elise, voksen, 25
Roles: Elise, adult, 25

Når jeg er lagt i jord
Solist i mitt eget begravelseskor
Liksminke, klede i hvitt
Over min rå appetitt
Glem meg, glem meg
Glem mitt svinnende selv
Men husk dette
Husk mitt farvel
Er skåret ned til knokler, ben
Markspist og endelig ren
Ribbet for svor, flesk og fett
Dø ung, bli et vakkert skjelett
Glem meg, glem meg
Glem mitt svinnende selv
Men husk dette
Husk mitt farvel
Et sprøytestikk i huden
Og så bli til himmelbruden
Gift i årene og i hodet
Den siste nattverd i blodet
Glem meg, glem meg
Glem mitt visnende selv
Men husk dette
Husk mitt farvel

Voggesang ved soloppgang (Lullaby at Sunrise) / Gi meg solen (Give me the sun) – an aria performed by Elise

Roller: Elise, voksen, 25
Roles: Elise, adult, 25

Sola er tung og den synker
Feit og slapp, men jeg synger
Min egen voggesang
Sopran ved soloppgang
I begynnelsen var moren
Og moren er støvet og jorden
Stikk hull i meg med nålen
La det bli lys inn i åren
Ligger i sengen med mamma
Blir bysset og lullet og ammet
En sprøyte er navlestrengen
Hun nærer meg med den i sengen
I mørket skal sola forlise
Og jeg skal slukne i lyset
Skyt meg opp som et stjerneskudd
Gi meg solen, når den har snudd

Nå stiger solen
Den blender meg
Den skjærer meg
Åh mamma, mamma!
Gi meg solen når den har snudd!
Gi meg solen, gi meg solen!
Gi meg (solen)
Maria Kjos Fonn with her book Heroin Chic

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Work samples: Music

The overdose aria Gi meg solen (Voggesang ved soloppgang)

First aria from the project, “Give me the Sun (Lullaby at Dawn / Sunrise)” from the scene where Elise asks her mother to give her a heroin injection, resulting in an overdose. PS the piano part has evolved a bit since the recordning and creds are due to the santurist who made his own part based on a simple score.

Voggesang ved soloppgang / Gi meg solen
Performed by:

Susanna Wolff (soprano)
Mirsaeed Hosseiny Panah (santoor)
Visobel Black (violin)
Sverre Indris Joner (piano)

Librettist: Maria Kjos Fonn
Composer: Solveig Sørbø

Audio (stream or download): https://s.disco.ac/lnybmcwgvzxu

From the lyrics:

Nå stiger solen (The sun rises)
Den blender meg (It blinds me)
Den skjærer meg (It aches me)
Åh mamma, mamma! (Oh, mother, mother!)
Gi meg solen når den har snudd! (Give me the sun when it turns!)

Excerpt from Gi meg solen (Voggesang ved soloppgang) performed as part of VoxLAB’s VårFEST at Sentralen by Susanna Wolff, Visobel Black, Mirsaeed Hosseiny Panah and Solveig Sørbø. Maria Kjos Fonn was there to introduce it. Filmed by Manuel Madsen iwth support from Komponistforeningen.

Elises klage

On the 4th August 2022 a part of the opera was performed in Stavanger Concert Hall as part of K&Mfest Stavanger.

“Elises klage” is the aria at the very end of the opera. Here, Elises is a soloist at her own funeral. The aria is performed with church organ or, as in this case, a concert organ, as well as a chamber ensemble.

Julie Hasfjord (soprano), Ashley Tong (violin), Elena Cotrone (violin), Xiaoti Guo Fuszenecker, Sebastian Kolin, Jonathan Siahaan and Ådne Sæverud perform “Gi meg solen” and “Elises klage” during Stavanger kunst- og musikkfestival in Stavanger Concert Hall.

Five Songs of the Bodied

Five Songs of the Bodied

Five Songs of the Bodied is a minimalist song cycle for voice and piano. Originally conceived for contratenor in order to reflect the frailty of the men, and their wish to be remembered as innocent boys, it has been arranged for a mezzo-range voice and piano, performed by Susanna Wolff and recorded by Komlava Sounds.

Five Songs of the Bodied is inspired by stories of Syrian men who have committed, witnessed or been victims of (sexual) violence between men, something that is associated with both trauma and shame. The songs are nevertheless abstracted to apply to more general agonizing regret and the existential crisis that may follow – quite relatable emotions and states of mind to many. The song (Nothing) mentions a number of definitions of nothingness, as found in philosophy, mathematics and theology.


Do you own the key to infinity?
Is there such a thing as a void?
What do they call an empty set?
Nothing. Nothing

Is it God or is it godless?
Antithetical to pure being
What is devoid of properties?
Nothing. Nothing.


Performed by: Susanna Wolff (soprano) and Solveig Sørbø (piano)

Words and music by: Solveig Sørbø

Film by: Mali Galaaen Røsseth

Mixed by: Åse Ava Fredheim


View / Download scores here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qyi44imnx4q8d74/AACmZg8InDLoPFAB-3HlcWSTa?dl=0

Love Theme

Love Theme featuring Catharina Chen, Petter Richter, Audun Sandvik and anonymous pianist. Artwork/animation by Saloni Sinha. Sound by Åse Ava Fredheim / Komlava Sounds

Love Theme was originally composed for the film Hans pluss Liv (NRK – Norwegian National Broadcast), but this new arrangement has been written for the ageing star violinist Arve Tellefsen and a small ensemble. Tellefsen later withdrew stating he wasn’t content with his own performance, and Solveig instead brought in Catharina Chen. In this piece Solveig Sørbø employs different articulations of the guitar mixed with warm cello and impressionist piano to accompany Chen’s unique timbre and passioned musicianship.

Stream / download audio here: https://s.disco.ac/nwbxtxpflxdr

Sun + Skyman

Sun + Skyman music art video

In Sun + Skyman Solveig Sørbø blends acoustic and electronic instruments, different tonalities, modes and textures. Link to the audio here.

Solveig Sørbø – Reel / Presentation

Solveig Sørbø – Reel / Presentation

In this 4 minute video you get a quick impression of Solveig Sørbø as a composer.

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Heroin Chic opera in the media

Solveig Sørbø on Distriktsytt Rogaland (in Norwegian) – TV

Mention in Ballade Klassisk (in Norwegian) – “Komponist Solveig Sørbø har mye på gang. Aller mest spennende er en ambisiøs opera om rus og avhengighet basert på Maria Kjos Fonns roman Heroin Chic. Sørbø er hyperaktiv på sosiale medier, og det er fascinerende å følge med på hvordan dette verket sakte bygges opp, bit for bit. ” (Ola Nordal)

Interview in Bygdebladet (in Norwegian, for subscribers)

Interview in Jazznytt (in Norwegian)

Accompanying documents / samples

Contact information

Name: Solveig Sørbø
Phone number: +4745095002
E-mail: sol@solveigsorbo.com
Address: Asperudlia 53, 1258 Oslo, Norway

Name: Maria Kjos Fonn
E-mail: mkfonn@gmail.com
Address: Sandefjordgata 5E, 0464 Oslo, Norway

Producer: Solsnu Indie-classics, solsnuu@gmail.com 

About the librettistAbout the composerAbout the stagingWork samples – librettoWork samples – musicMedia DocumentsContact

Please note!: This page is a living document reflecting the development of the opera “Heroin Chic” by Maria Kjos Fonn and Solveig Sørbø. It includes unfinished and original text, audio and ideas. All rights reserved. Please do get in touch if you have any queries: solsnuu@gmail.com // +4745095002.

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