This year, Danes mark the bicentennial of the birth of Andersen, who is renowned for his children's stories, including the classics 'The Little Match Girl,' 'The Ugly Duckling' and 'The Red Shoes'
Elvis Costello will take to the stage in Copenhagen this weekend for the premiere of his opera "The Secret Arias," which is based on Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen's impossible romance with a Swedish soprano.
The opera tells of a three-way drama between Andersen, Jenny Lind -- dubbed the "Swedish Nightingale" -- and her American impresario, Phineas Taylor Barnum, who brought Lind to New York for her first American concert tour in 1850.
Costello will play both Andersen and Barnum, while Swedish soprano Gisela Stille will sing Lind's part.
Costello said his work was a traditional opera.
"It would be a surprise if people thought I would be playing a lot of rock 'n' roll," he said at a news conference in Copenhagen.
"It is not inconceivable" to be a rock singer and write an opera, said Costello, who has also recorded with Swedish soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter and the Brodsky Quartet.
Costello emerged from Britain's early new wave scene as one of the original "angry young men" and since then has dabbled in everything from orchestral symphonies to harmonious pop. Some of his featured singles include "Alison," "Radio, Radio" and "Veronica."
The opera will be performed at Copenhagen's new opera house on Saturday and Sunday. Next season, it will be on the opera house's repertoire with other performers.
Contacted nearly three years ago by the Danish Royal Theater ahead of the 2005 bicentennial of Andersen's birth, Costello wrote "the songs (which) will tell a story that I have imagined existing between the lines of Andersen's biography and some of his most famous tales," he told reporters.
"I didn't want it to sound like a pastiche of Andersen," Costello said. The opera eventually will go on an international tour and will be released on compact disc and DVD.
Four musicians will accompany Costello and Stille at the opera's main stage, which seats up to 1,700 people.
By picking Costello, "we wanted to show that we don't want boxes at the opera. We thought the meeting between the two worlds would be interesting," the opera's artistic director, Kasper Holten, said.
This year, Danes mark the bicentennial of Andersen's birth, who is renowned for his children's stories, including the classics "The Little Match Girl," "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Red Shoes." Andersen died in 1875.
It is believed that Andersen wrote his tale "The Nightingale" with Lind -- who lived from 1820-1887 -- in mind.