In the comments to this post on the Glimmerglass production of The Mines of Sulphur, Marja-Leena Rathje was thoughtful enough to mention her experiences at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in her native country, Finland. This prompted me to think about what has been happening in Finland, for at least the past few decades, in terms of performance of new operas and other new music, in relation to my class on Opera in the 20th Century. This year's festival, which concluded earlier this month, saw productions of Offenbach, Wagner, Puccini, Mascagni, Verdi, and Donizetti. Big deal, right? They also performed Rubinstein's Der Dämon, and there was a recital by soprano Karita Mattila of songs by Duparc, Saariaho, and Rachmaninov. Furthermore, they premiered a new opera by Jaakko Kuusisto, called The Canine Kalevala, with a libretto by Mauri Kunnas based on the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala (you can read it in an English translation by John Martin Crawford). It took the Finns a while to create their own national opera, but in 1898 Oskar Merikanto (1868-1924) completed the first opera in Finnish, Pohjan neiti (Maiden of the North), also based on the Kalevala. Since then, opera in Finland has kept growing, especially since the 1970s, so that now Finland is probably the leading country for the production of new operas. (You can read a lot more about the history of opera in Finland in Pekka Hako's article for Virtual Finland.)
Here are some related links to show what I mean:
- Ilmajoki Music Festival (Ilmajoen Musiikkijuhlat), presenting performances of popular folk operas
- Finnish National Opera (Suomen Kansallisooppera)
- Helsinki Skaala Opera (Oopera Skaala)
- Helsinki Festival (August 20 to September 5, 2004)
- Musica Nova Helsinki (March 4 to March 10, 2005): the 2004 festival saw the premiere of Lauri Kilpiö and Christian Lindblad's opera Beach Balls and Hairy Chests, as well as a performance of Perttu Haapanen and Christian Lindblad's Solity:d (2002–2003), a short opera with a libretto in an invented language.
- Mikkeli Music Festival (July 3 to 8, 2005)