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How it all started!

Ingrid Maria Rappe tells the story:


It was near the end of the 1950s that I first came to Vadstena to spend a few days at the County Archives, then as now housed in the east wing of Vadstena Castle. The weather was bad and it was rather gloomy inside the Castle. One of the Archives’ officials was friendly enough to show me around the west wing. It was impressive but also a bit eerie.

På bilden: Ingrid Rappe

An idea is hatched

Finally the weather turned sunny, and I joined a couple of tourists who wanted to view the Castle. They departed after a short while, but I went on exploring by myself with the permission of the caretaker. Up the stairs I came on the Bodyguard Room (drabantsalen) and from there I suddenly caught sight of a large hall awash with golden light. It was the “Wedding Hall”, and the cause of its transformation was the sun setting over Lake Vättern, casting its rays in through the large windows. It was a breath-taking experience that I will never forget. The following year I was back in Vadstena to attend a week of choral church music (Koralveckan). That experience also made a deep impression on me. And then, after a period of ill-health when I was advised to travel somewhere for peace and quiet where the air was clean – I chose Vadstena. By that time, impression after impression began to pile up and gain momentum, ultimately becoming a musical vision that eventually took shape as a concrete idea.

Ferdinand Grossmann brought into the Academy

Because my background was as a musician and a teacher and I had also studied in Vienna under Professor Ferdinand Grossmann among others, I thought, why not visit him and tell him a little about Vadstena? In a relatively recent published biography of Ferdinand Grossmann, his rich curriculum vitae reads that in the summers of 1964, -65, -66 and -68, he headed the Vadstena International Summer Academy. He also taught choral conducting, direction and singing at Musashino Academia Musicae in Tokyo in 1963, -65, -67, and -69 as an honorary professor. He died in 1970 aged 82. Along with Professor Andreas Lindblom and chief curator Bertil Berthelson, Grossmann was made an honorary citizen of Vadstena in 1965. It was with Grossmann that Vadstena Academy opened up to the wider world. During its first four years, 13 different nationalities were represented at the Academy.

To the Mayor

It was a long time before I found out whether and when Grossmann would come to the Academy. At the end of 1963, a positive message finally came, and I immediately visited Vadstena’s mayor Seth Schultz and presented my plan. This visit was very positive, despite the fact that the issue of what premises could be used for our purposes was seen as difficult to solve. And it was, but thankfully only for a short time.

For the summer of 1964, the Rappe family had rented an apartment in Nermanska gården, a manor house in Vadstena. It was located opposite the town hall, which had a certain practical importance. At that time I was only acquainted with one person who knew about my project, and that was the mayor. And he recommended that I contact Arne Lindberg, the school principal at Samrealskolan about the premises issue. And so I did. He in turn recommended that I visit Ingrid Eriksson at the office of the local Folkhögskolan, the adult education college. She was filling in for the summer in the office there, and just might be able to help me. And she most certainly did!

Filled with enthusiasm and joy, she opened almost all the doors of the college to me and thus to the future of our embryonic Academy. With the consent of the college principal Arne Hjelmqvist, the Academy stayed at the Folkhögskolan until it began its expansion – a total of six years.

”Richtung Stockholm”

Almost at the same time as a piano was being rolled into the college’s gymnastics hall, a Vienna-registered car rolled up the gangway to the ferry from Helsingør to Helsingborg. After his arrival, Professor Grossmann called the Rappe’s law firm in Malmö and asked about the way to Vadstena. The answer he got was “RICHTUNG STOCKHOLM”. The day after Grossmann’s arrival in Vadstena, the rear guard of singers from Denmark, Japan, Germany and Austria arrived.

At the same time, i.e. 2 July, editor Gunnar Sträng visited Nermanska gården to interview Grossmann. Sträng was the resident correspondent in Vadstena for the Östgöta Correspondenten newspaper, the chair of the local tourist board and the local representative of Sweden’s Central Board of National Antiquities. It was the first time I met him. But it certainly wasn’t the last. Over the years, Sträng performed invaluable services for the Academy as well as myself personally.

A native of the Province...

The first musician to come to the Academy was a native of the province of Östergötland in which Vadstena is located. He was Jan Zanton from Linköping – a highly talented musician and pianist and a learned musicologist.

He came to visit, but stayed as an accompanist for both teaching and concerts during the periods that Grossmann came to Vadstena. Zanton passed away in 1986. He left behind a unique collection of music, from the Baroque to early Romantic periods. This collection was donated in 1987 by his wife to Vadstena Library and is named the Jan Zanton Collection.


In 1964, -65, -66 and -67, concerts were given in the Castle, the Priory Church, the Town Hall, at Medevi Brunn (a health spa) and Löfstad Castle, with all participants performing. There were guest performances at the Academy by the Copenhagen Chamber Choir under the baton of Arne Bertelsen, as well as the Vienna Chamber Choir under Augustin Kubizek and the Camerata choir from Copenhagen under Per Enevold (1967).

A couple of the concerts also featured instrumental music such as Dvorak’s Dumky Trio, Beethoven’s Spring Sonata, and music for harpsichord..

The Old Theatre gets a new life

In 1966 I managed to gather some Japanese singers who, at their own expense plus a small stipend, came to Vadstena to participate in its summer course.  They performed two evenings of Japanese music at the Old Theatre. For these performances, a backdrop of a Japanese landscape was created, a gift from my good friend and artist Inga Palmgren. It is no exaggeration to say that these evenings were a great success.

This was the beginning of a new era for the Old Theatre. After quite an extensive initial restoration – lighting, heating, etc. – the Old Theatre was re-opened in 1967 with Gluck’s Die Maienkönigin and Pergolesi’s Serva Padrona. The following summer (1968) Cimarosa’s Matrimonio Segreto was on the programme. The conductor and impresario for all these performances was Professor Karl Etti of Vienna. His participation was made possible thanks to grants from the city of Vienna. Musicians and singers came from the Academy of Music and Conservatory in Vienna. Among the singers were Swedes Torbjörn Lillieqvist, Kerstin Bohman (Huber), Margareta Wiklander, Kerstin Berggren and Solveig Larsson (Lindström) and from Norway Wenche Aukner. Everyone came at their own expense or paid for by funds they had raised themselves.

From a firm with zero funds to a foundation

Financially, I started out with nothing. In 1965, I received my first grant from Vadstena City – all of SEK 1500. I also had a firm registered in the county’s business register under the name Internationella Vadstena-akademien f. sång- och instrumentalmusik (International Vadstena Academy for Vocal and Instrumental Music). No doubt there were many who thought I had taken on rather more than I could manage, and that was probably true. The grants from the city of Vadstena increased gradually, but so did my bank loans…

Which is why I was extremely happy when in 1968 the city of Vadstena proposed a grant of SEK 30,000 for the 1969 financial year. This was quickly challenged on the grounds that the city of Vadstena could not give a private individual so much money, even if that person’s work was advantageous to the city. So there I was, without any funds, but with debts piling up and my optimism shaken. A restructuring became necessary. The firm became a foundation with county governor Per Eckerberg as Chair of the Board and it was then named the Vadstena Academy International Foundation. While I had hoped for a Swedish-Austrian cultural cooperation, that turned out to be an unrealistic idea.

Another native of the province...

In 1968 another young native of the province came into the picture. He arrived early in the morning to make Grossmann’s acquaintance. In the evening of the same day, with some of the singers and musicians he performed Monteverdi’s Ballo – Movete al mio bel suon. Place: Vadstena Castle.

It was late and rather dark. There was no lighting other than the Castle’s own floodlighting. Singing from music would have been very difficult, but there was no problem in singing by heart.

When the grant of SEK 30,000 had been ‘seized’ and I didn't know what to do, I was again visited by another native of the province – Arnold Östman. And when he heard about my predicament, he said, “Then let us do Dido and Aeneas!!!” Us!! Who is us, I asked. That’s how it all started. Without any funding, preparations began. Leif Söderströms provided direction, stage design, and beautiful costumes. Singers and musicians offered their services, and Östman himself provided the musical arrangements and did the conducting. At some point in the spring, the funds were released to us by the city of Vadstena so that our activities could continue.

In 1969, a new chapter began in the history of our enterprise. For ten years, Östman worked for the Academy and ultimately became the artistic director of the Academy in 1973. And that, my friends, is how it all started!

Ingrid Maria Rappe

More about our history

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