“Godfather of Icelandic Opera,” Garðar Cortes, Passes Away

Opera singer, Garðar Emanúel Cortes

Garðar Cortes, sometimes referred to as “the godfather of Icelandic opera,” passed away Sunday at the age of 82. Among other accomplishments, Garðar was instrumental in promoting and strengthening opera culture in Iceland.

“A giant of the Icelandic music scene”

On Sunday, May 14, Icelandic opera singer and promoter of Icelandic music Garðar Emanúel Cortes passed away. He was 82 years old. Eulogised as, “a giant of the Icelandic music scene“ by RÚV, Garðar was instrumental in the founding of the Icelandic Opera in 1980 and served as director of the Opera between 1979 and 1999.

“The Icelandic Opera was officially founded on October 3, 1980, at the initiative of Garðar Cortes. The goal was to give singers the opportunity to work on their art and to make the opera art form accessible to Icelandic audiences,” as noted on the website of the Icelandic Opera.

Besides founding the Icelandic Opera, Garðar also founded the Reykjavík Singing School (Söngskóli Reykjavíkur) where he served as the school’s principal for many years. He worked for decades as an opera singer, teacher, choir director, and conductor, performing in Iceland and abroad.

Garðar received an honorary award at the Iceland Performing Arts Awards in 2017 for his contribution to Icelandic performing arts and music. Garðar leaves behind four children and nine grandchildren. He is survived by his wife Krystyna Maria Blasiak Cortes.

Man Drowns Following Accident at Westman Islands Harbour

The driver of the vehicle that went into the harbour in Westman Islands yesterday evening has been pronounced dead, RÚV reports. The police have launched an investigation into the incident.

Resuscitation attempts unsuccessful

At 8.18 PM yesterday, the Westman Islands police were notified of a vehicle that had been driven into the Nausthamarsbryggja harbour in the Westman Islands. Speaking to RÚV, Chief Inspector Jóhannes Ólafsson stated that a crew member of a local fishing boat, which was on its way to the port, had placed the call.

A response team was immediately dispatched, and a diver was sent to retrieve the vehicle’s driver, who was alone in the car and unconscious. Despite quick reactions from the authorities, resuscitation attempts proved unsuccessful, and the man was pronounced dead. According to an announcement from the police, an investigation has been launched into the causes of the accident.

Artist and Musician Prins Póló Passes Away, Aged 45

Prins Pólo

Icelandic musician Svavar Pétur Eysteinsson, better known as Prins Póló, has passed away at the age of 45. Svavar was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2018.

“With death itself on your back”

“Rest in peace, genius and friend,” music critic Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen wrote in remembrance of musician Svavar Pétur Eysteinsson (better known as Prins Póló) who passed away yesterday at the age of 45 after a four-year battle with cancer. He continued:

“Your contribution to Icelandic art is immeasurable, and your name will live forever, just watch. Your fertile ideas, your inclination to buck trends, to just DO, never to overthink things, to be constantly doing – with death itself on your back in the end … Icelandic art – and Icelandic music in particular – has been greatly impoverished.”

Svavar Pétur Eysteinsson founded the alternative rock band Skakkamanage in the mid-2000s. The band would go on to release three albums: Lab of Love in 2006, All Over The Face in 2008, and Sounds of Merrymaking in 2014. Svavar Pétur was also a part of the bands Rúnk and Múldýrið.

Svavar began releasing albums under the name Prins Póló in 2010 (Prinspóló initially) with his debut album Jukk. The single Niðrá Strönd enjoyed great popularity and was, among other things, featured in an episode of This American Life in 2013. Prins Póló released París Norðursins, a single from the eponymous album in 2014, which became something of an anthem.

Iceland Review’s Jelena Ćirić interviewed Svavar Pétur last year. Speaking to Jelena, Svavar tried to shed light on the personal tensions that governed his art: “There’s an imp on my right shoulder that’s always saying: ‘Be wise, do something practical.’ Then there’s one on my left shoulder that just goes ‘bleeehhh!’ Then they talk to each other and somehow it works out.”

Svavar had three children with his wife Berglind Häsler.

Missing Hiker Found Dead After Apparent Fall on Strandartindur

fatal accident Iceland

The hiker who went missing yesterday in Seyðisfjörður was found dead on Strandartindur last night. It is believed that the man, a foreign traveller, fell on the cliffs of the mountain, RÚV reports.

The man set out alone on a hike from Seyðisfjörður yesterday morning. His friends, awaiting him in town, contacted police after being unable to reach him via phone. A search effort was launched, and the area around Strandartindur was surveyed with drones. Around noon, the police requested further assistance from search-and-rescue units in East and Northeast Iceland.

According to Davíð Már Bjarnason, ICE-SAR’s public relations officer, the conditions on the mountain were difficult, RÚV reports. Approximately eighty people took part in the search, among them individuals specialized in mountain rescue.

An investigation of the accident is currently underway. Speaking to Iceland Review this morning, the Police in East Iceland could offer no further comment.

Unidentified Body Found in Eastern Suburb

fatal accident Iceland

The body of an unidentified man was found in a forested area in the eastern suburb of Breiðholt, RÚV reports. Police are working to determine the man’s identity, and believe they will be able to do so within a few days.

The body was found by a man who was walking in the area around noon on Friday. Thus far, police have confirmed that the deceased was an adult man and say that no missing persons report had been filed on his behalf. No further information has been released about his age, nationality, or appearance. It’s thought that the man had been dead for some time when he was found, although it has not yet been determined if this had been a matter of weeks, months, or even years.

The death is not considered suspicious; police have no indications of foul play.

Mast Report: Over 100 Horses Died During Winter Storm

Over one hundred horses have been confirmed dead following extreme weather conditions in Northwestern Iceland in December, the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (Mast) reports. The deaths account for approximately 0.5% of the equine population in the area; an estimated 20,000 horses were roaming free in Northwestern Iceland during the storm.

Not a Matter of Negligence

Horses from a total of 46 farms died, including 29 farms in East-Húnavatn county (61 horses), nine farms in West-Húnavatn county (20 horses), and eight farms in Skagafjörður (22 horses). A single farm commonly lost one to four horses. An average of approximately two horses died on each farm. According to Mast, this even distribution of equine deaths indicates that the fatalities were not the result of negligence or of the farmers’ failure to take appropriate measures.

Horses of all ages died in the storm: 29 foals (under a year old), 34 young horses (one to four years old), 30 mares, and 15 horses, most of which were adults. Most of the mares were elderly. The Mast report states that it was the oldest and the youngest horses that suffered the highest fatalities.

Buried Beneath Two Metres of Snow

The storm commonly drove horses into ditches, toward fences, or other hazardous areas; horses huddling around shelters were also commonly snowed in, e.g. horses that farmers had driven to shelter for safekeeping and feeding. In some cases, the storm buried horses beneath two metres of snow, with tall snowdrifts piling up around shelters. Generally speaking, horses on farms close to shore experienced the most extreme weather. At the same time, farms at a higher elevation were more fortunate, most likely because it was colder in those areas, with ice not piling up as quickly as snow.

Shelters Provided Little Succour

It is exceedingly rare for such an intense northerly storm to strike with concomitant precipitation and freezing temperatures, wherein sleet covered the horses and then froze. The horses became cold and heavy, which made it more difficult for them to withstand the prolonged snowstorm and the occasional hurricane-force winds. Human-made windbreaks and other natural shelters were of little use to the horses in areas where conditions were worst. The horses were generally in good shape to withstand the storm, as the fall had been favourable for horses kept outdoors.

80 Horses Dead and Over 100 Missing

The fate of over one hundred horses in Northwestern Iceland remains unknown following extreme weather conditions last week, RÚV reports. Approximately 80 horses have been confirmed dead. A veterinarian at MAST (the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority) has called the conditions unprecedented.

Nearly 80 Horses Dead

Around the country, dozens of horses kept outside during last week’s storm perished. Conditions were worst in Húnavatn counties were nearly 80 horses have died. Over 100 horses are missing. Many of the surviving horses are suffering from extreme exhaustion. For the past few days, the rescue association Blanda in Blönduós has responded to 15 calls for help involving horses.

“There was no way to reach these horses for two or three days. The horses were completely out of sight. In such conditions, there’s nothing you can do, the horses being without food or water for all this time,” Sigríður Björnsdóttir veterinarian at MAST stated. According to Sigríður, last week’s storm was the most fatal natural disaster to have befallen Iceland’s horses in decades.

“Yes, I think it’s possible to assert that. I have worked in this field for 25 years, and this is a unique event during this period, at least. We could not have expected this.”

Sigríður added that there was nothing to suggest that farmers had failed to take appropriate measures.

“These are traumatic events for the farmers, and I would like to emphasise that it’s not a matter of the farmers being unprepared. There’s nothing to suggest that. More often than not, for example, we see that a few horses have died on many farms, as opposed to many horses dying on a few farms. This is happening to experienced people. It isn’t a question of negligence. It’s simply the result of unprecedented weather conditions.”

Björnsdóttir also stated that keeping horses outside is a tradition that is unlikely to change. As there are no stables, keeping the animals inside is not an option.

Accused of Animal Cruelty Online

Ingunn Reynisdótttir, a veterinarian in Húnavatn county, says that local farmers are downhearted. Serious charges have been levelled against them over the past few days.

“The farmers are exhausted, both physically and mentally. They are just completely spent, and to make matters worse, they’ve been accused of animal cruelty on all of the media websites. I know them to be model farmers who do everything in their power for their animals.”

Magnús Ásgeir Elíasson, a farmer in West Húnavatn county who lost four horses, stated that the past few days had been incredibly tough. In an interview with the news programme Kastljós this week, Magnús said that from last Tuesday to Friday, during the storm, he had slept for only five hours as he was endeavouring to save his horses.

Tryggvi Rúnar Hauksson, another farmer in Húnavatn county who lost six horses, said that he had shed no tears over financial losses. The real damages were emotional. According to Tryggvi, local farmers had done everything in their power to save the horses.

“Horses have kept outside since this country was settled.”

As noted on the website Horses of Iceland, all around the world, most Icelandic horses are “kept outside or in open stables their whole life all year round, and only the riding horses in Iceland are usually in stables over the winter.”

According to MAST, the Icelandic horse is especially well suited to the outdoors: “The Icelandic horse has lived in Icelandic nature for centuries and is especially well suited to the outdoors all year round. The main benefit of being outside is freedom, where the horse’s natural behaviour goes unimpeded. Their physical needs are also better served outside, especially as regards physical activity, which is a basic need among horses, generally, but especially important to young horses, whose musculuskeleton systems aren’t fully formed. The horses diet is often times more diverse if they are kept outside, enabling the horses to better regulate their body temperature, as they have a thick winter coat.”

This article was updated at 11:25