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OLE BULL (1810 - 1880)

Museet Lysøen situated at Bergenshalvøya, 30 kilometer south of Bergen is Ole Bull´s Home. Ole Bull was born in 1810, and became very early known as a first class violinist. His solo performance with the great orchestra of the Paris Opera at the age of 25 marked the beginning of a series of concert tours which took him over the whole of Europa and America.

He was one of the greatest violin virtuosos of his time, and awoke an interest in the qualities of Norwegian folk music both at home and abroad. This was of great significance to other composers - amongst them, Edvard Grieg. In 1850 Ole Bull founded the first Norwegian theatre, with Henrik Ibsen as the first instructor, followed by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.

His contemporaries regarded him as a great and cherished national symbol. Despite his constant travelling, he always managed to spend summers at home in Norway, first at the family estate of Valestrand, and later on the island of Lysøen in Os. On Valestrand he rebuilt the former estate with a view to creating a home for his French wife, but she died before the work was completed. His second wife, the American senator daughter Sara Thorp of Madison, Wisconsin, accompanied him to the summer villa on Lysøen built in 1872.


The hero in the young Edvard Grieg´s dreams was the "fairytale-uncle", the famous violin virtuoso Ole Bull. Ole Bull´s brother was married to Edvardøs aunt, but it was first of all through the musical environment in Bergen that Ole Bull and Grieg´s parents got to know each other. In the summer of 1858 Ole Bull came on a visit to Alexander and Gesine Grieg at Landås Estate. The event became, according to Grieg, the most important single event in his life. Edvard Grieg had to play for the world-famous violinist, and after he had heard him playing some of his own small compositions, Ole Bull became very serious and spoke slowly with Griegøs parents. After that he came over to Edvard and said: "You are going to Leipzig to become an artist!"

From his childhood and onwards, Ole Bull´s summer sojourns in the countryside had brought him in contact with the Norwegian folkmusic. His dream was to show the treasures of the Norwegian folklore to other countries, but also to the city dwellers in Norway. He founded the first Norwegian theatre in Bergen, where the motto was: Norwegian pieces, Norwegian actors and Norwegian ballet.
  He made the Hardangerfiddle-music known in Norway by inviting famous fiddlers to cities like Bergen and Oslo. The most famous of these fiddlers was Torgeir Audunsøn, known as "Myllarguten" (The Millers lad). Ole Bull was going to be a good friend and source for inspiration for Edvard Grieg until 1880, when Ole Bull died.Ole Bull referred to the villa as his "Little Alhambra" and a visit there willl show you why. The villa with its russian onion dome, elegant trelliswork, the pierced-wood Moorish arches and twisted columns of the high ceilinged music hall is an unique pearl in Norwegian architectural history.

Ole Bull died on Lysøen in 1880, and his wife Sara and their daughter Olea continued to spend their summers on Lysøen. So did his grandchild Sylvea Bull Curtis, connecticut, who donated the whole property to the Society for The Preservation of Norwegian Ancient Monuments in 1973.

Ole Bull transformed his 175 acre island property into a fairy tale kingdom by having romantic paths with white shell sand, ponds, and gazebos made, and by planting exotic trees and bushes in the native pine forest. The landscaping has been continued ever since his death, and today the island is a popular recreational area for the public.

Secluded swimming and picnic spots. Cafe for light refreshments. Concerts for the Bergen Internationale Festival and Lysøen.

With or without its music Lysøen stands as a monument of a time when sentiment rang high, or the man who was a great festival in the life of the people, and of the devotion which has kept the little island kingdom safe and protected until our own days.

Open: med- May to September: Mon.- Sat. 12 p.m. - 4 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. In September open Sundays 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. Group visits or special arrangements during or outside regular opening hours / season by appointment.

Entrance fee include a guided tour of the villa.

Get there:Ferry to Lysøen:

Weekdays 12, 1, 2 and 3 p.m., Sundays 11 a.m., 12, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m.

Last ferry from Lysøen:

Weekdays 4.10 p.m., Sundays 5:10 p.m.

For groups during or outside regular opening hours/season by appointment.