Freydis and Gudrid Image

Freydis and Gudrid

By Alan Ng | July 4, 2024

Let me start by saying that I know nothing about the ancient stories of Icelandic Vikings. Now I do. Filmmaker and composer Jeffrey Leiser weaves together the stories of the Vikings from Penguin books in the operatic feature Freydís and Gudrid. Bear with me because I know I’m going to get names wrong. Freydís and Gudrid are two Viking women caught in the middle of deadly intrigue, only to find a reckoning in the end.

Our tale opens with a ship landing on shore piloted by a slave. The ship is greeted by the son and daughter of Erik the Red: Leif Erikson and Freydís Eiríksdóttir (Kirsten Chambers). The slave brings back word that their brother Thorvald died on a journey to Vinland. Leif and Freydís vow to return Thorvald’s body back to Greenland.

Pledging his sword for the journey are the brave Thorfinn Karlsefni (Bray Wilkins) and his pregnant wife, Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir (Micaëla Oeste). Gudrid goes along as she can not be away from Thorfinn for even a moment. When they arrive in Vinland, Thorfin, and Gudrid, marvel at the land’s beauty. They are introduced to the First Nations people and strike up friendships.

Hellbent on revenge for the death of Thorvald, Freydís conspires to hunt down her brother’s killers and believes the slave who brought the news was involved in his death. It turns out that the slave was an ally of the indigenous Wood tribe and was murdered without cause. Intrigue prevails as Freydís plots to put Thorfinn, Gudred, and their newborn son, Snorri, in the middle of the conspiracy.

“…two Viking women caught in the middle of deadly intrigue, only to find a reckoning in the end.”

Freydís and Gudrid showcases composer Jeffrey Leiser’s journey of discovering his passion, pursuing it, and using his resources to make it a reality. After reading the Penguin books in 2003, Leiser was inspired to create an operatic epic, drawing from his own life experiences. He composed the music and collaborated with Andrés Soto to arrange and orchestrate it. Professional opera singers Micaëla Oeste and Kirsten Chambers were cast to star as Gudrid and Freydís, respectively.

I’d be lying if I told you I know anything about opera. Though I’m a massive musical fan, opera has always been out of my reach. Unlike most operas that I’ve been exposed to, language has always been a barrier. Thankfully, Freydís and Gudrid is sung in English and quite beautifully by its cast.

Sam Krueger’s cinematography enhances the opera. Freydís and Gudrid is a very low-budget production shot on greenscreen, with gorgeous Icelandic landscapes projected behind the action. The greenscreen is pretty apparent but blends beautifully with the cast’s props and costuming.

Freydís and Gudrid is Jeffrey Leiser’s passion project and a significant achievement. It feels like a reading of ancient tales, with the emotion of the opera replacing the melodrama and acting found in traditional period pieces. The music highlights the emotions and drama of each scene, covering themes from romance and murder to loyalty and revenge.

For more information about Freydís and Gudrid, visit the Abino Fawn website.

Freydís and Gudrid (2024)

Directed and Written: Jeffrey Leiser

Starring: Micaëla Oeste, Kirsten Chambers, etc.

Movie score: 6.5/10

Freydís and Gudrid Image

"…reading of ancient tales, with the emotion of the opera replacing the melodrama..."

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