The Danish Jewish Museum is fab. Not only can you find out more about the country’s Jewish population – from the earliest Jewish immigrants who arrived in the 1600s to the rescue of the Danish Jews in 1943 – you can also wonder around one of the most dynamic interior spaces in Copenhagen.
The museum is tucked behind the Royal Library in a building that was originally constructed in the seventeenth century as The Royal Boat House. It was amalgamated into the library when it was built in 1906 and finally became a museum in 2003. The interior was designed by the world-famous architect Daniel Libeskind - an American architect with an innate understanding of the Jewish religion as he was born in Lodz in 1946 to Polish parents who themselves had survived the Holocaust. In 1999 he designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and more recently he has completed the Contemporary Jewish Museums in San Francisco.
For the Copenhagen museum Libeskind has created a design around the Hebrew word Mitzvah, which can be translated as ‘obligation’, ‘deeply felt reaction’, ‘involvement’ or ‘good deed’ and reflects the positive Jewish experience in Denmark of being saved from the Nazis, rather than prosecuted by them. The entire interior of the Museum is carved up to create corridors and spaces that form the shape of the four letters that make up this word.
Walking around the museum is slightly disconcerting as the partition walls, made from wood as a nod to the Nordic context, slope at contrasting angles and the floor dips up and down like the deck of a boat on the high seas. Cut into the walls are display cabinets and texts while videos also adorn the walls. You feel completely removed from the outside world, as if you’re on a mini adventure, exploring what lies behind the next corner. Plus, there’s an excellent film featuring Libeskind, in which he explains in his own words the motivation behind this compact, yet compelling space.
The opera Alceste premiered to a rapturous response at The Royal Danish Theatre this week with the rarely performed greek drama first written in 1767 by Christoph Willibald Gluck receiving a clever and thoroughly modern make over by stage director Christof Loy. True, the adults dressed as children erred on the side of freaky, but by telling the story through the eyes of a child the opera gained a new dimension. The Baroque score by Concerto Copenhagen was magnificent and the harrowing voice of Alceste, sang by Mireille Delunsch, reverberated in my head for the entire cycle ride home.
Photographs by Thomas Petri for The Royal Danish Theatre