A crisp and raw evening in February and I find myself on the second row in the Chapel in Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen. The Chapel, now home to The Culture Center Assistens and I’m being drawn into the dark and intense universe of Dostoevsky and one of his final classics, A Gentle Spirit. The compact scene is dominated by it’s sole performer, Viktor Melnikov, who masterly captivates the audience on his painful journey, accompanied soulfully on the accordion by Adam Ørvad. The performance of a man’s grief resonates sublimely with the venue. Since the mid 1990’s, the Culture Center has been promoting and researching Assistens Cemetery’s unique role in Copenhagen’s densely populated neighborhood of Nørrebro. The cemetery was originally consecrated as a pauper cemetery in the 1760’s, but quickly became the final resting place for some of Denmark’s finest poets and creative souls. Today, Assistens Cemetery has become one of the city’s iconic public spaces, a multi-functional haven where local residents can find some respite.
Back in the Chapel and the monologue reaches its inevitable climax to a well deserved applause. This initiative of utilizing our cemeteries in a respectful and intelligent way cannot be praised enough.
Photo credits: Phillip Mills