Footballer, Sports Commentator Bjarni Felixson Passes Away

Bjarni Felixson

Veteran sports journalist and former Icelandic national footballer Bjarni Felixson passed away at the age of 86 yesterday, RÚV reports. Known as “the Red Lion,” Bjarni Felixson had a storied career in football before transitioning to journalism, where he became a household name.

“The Red Lion”

Veteran sports journalist and former Icelandic national footballer Bjarni Felixson passed away yesterday at the age of 86. As noted by RÚV, Bjarni was in Denmark to attend the funeral of longtime friend Finn Heiner. The duo originally met during their respective careers at RÚV and DR, Iceland and Denmark’s national broadcasters, forming a lifelong friendship.

Survived by his wife Álfheiður Gísladóttir, four children, and a combined 14 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Bjarni was born in Reykjavík on December 27, 1936. He gained prominence as a left-fback for the dominant KR team of the 1950s and ’60s, amassing five Icelandic championships and seven cup titles while earning six caps for the national team.

Known affectionately as “the Red Lion,” a moniker coined by his teammates, Bjarni Felixson came from a footballing family; both of his brothers also donned the national jersey. In 1963, all three of them played against England in an international match.

Colourful commentary

Bjarni Felixson transitioned into journalism in 1968, joining the National Broadcaster (RÚV), where he served for 42 years. He became a household name for his coverage of national and international sports, notably English football. Bjarni was known for his colourful commentary, once stating that a football team had “conceded a corner kick in a dangerous area.”

Bjarni witnessed the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, later recounting the emotional toll of reporting the event where 96 fans lost their lives.

Throughout his illustrious career, Bjarni received numerous accolades, including the gold medal of the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) on his sixtieth birthday and an honorary plaque from the Football Association of Iceland (KSÍ). Last year, he was conferred the Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Falcon by President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson for his contributions to sports, social affairs, and communication.

Bjarni’s legacy extends beyond journalism and football; two Reykjavík establishments, the Red Lion and Bjarni Fel Sportbar, were named in his honour.

“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.

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.