Spotlight falls on Stockholm
Stockholm is gearing up to become Cultural Capital of Europe next year and at the same time is pledging to become the continent's cleanest city.
Hundreds of special events will provide an unique opportunity for visitors to experience modern Swedish culture and traditions.
The year-long programme of events will include reindeer races and lasso throwing by the Sami and Lapp people of the Arctic Circle.
Swedish design, fire sculpture, a Baltic Tall Ship Race, an Ingmar Bergman film festival, the inauguration of a new Museum of Modern Art and Architecture, folk concerts, theatre and dance are other highlights.
Among seven events already confirmed is Diva '98 - a festival of 'glitter, glamour and unabashed selfishness' - dedicated to extravagant artistry.
Some of the world's great pop divas from the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia will be flown in to perform in August.
Combining stage presence, sequins and sonorous voices with a sense of humour, they will include Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the great qawwali master from Pakistan; Bulent Ersoy, the sequinned Turkish transvestite; Mbilila Bel, Zaire's own megastar; and Celina Gonzales, Cuba's Latin queen.
'Archipelago' is the working theme for a large number of contemporary art exhibitions such as Nordic Light, hailed as 'a history of fanatical obstructionists in a consensus-minded Sweden, an exhibition about chaos, dirt and senselessness'.
Many consider Nordic children's theatre to be a world leader and it will be showcased at major stages such as the Royal Dramatic Theatre and City Theatre. From fairy-tales and puppets to peep-hole theatre, the aim is to enable every child in Sweden to attend at least one production.
Swedish design will feature in a major exhibition of photos, sounds, voices and inventions - from the vacuum cleaner to the sports car - over the past 100 years since the celebrated 1897 Stockholm Exhibition.
'Every year of the 20th century will be represented,' a spokesman said.
Stockholm Cultural Capital '98 will also bring information technology into a cultural perspective at a media laboratory on the island of Skeppsholmen.
Working with students and other organisations, the project will feature an IT 'cave' enveloping visitors with dramatic virtual reality images.
But Stockholm's conquest of the IT universe will not be restricted to Skeppsholmen. Cultural Capital '98 has also ventured into cyber space with a World Wide Web site enabling anyone with Internet access to monitor the activities of the media lab. Artists will even be invited to exhibit via the Net.
Along a theme entitled 'In Leonardo's Footsteps', the spokesman said 'the idea is to use the lab as a gathering place for those who want to stretch the boundaries of art and society into the universe'.
Innovative Swedish opera also takes centre stage, starting on New Year's Eve with the world premiere of an opera about Marie ('let them eat cake') Antoinette.
Another new show being premiered at the Royal Swedish Opera, celebrating its 100th anniversary, is Staden (The City) by Sven-David Sandstrom and Katarina Frostenson.