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Finnish National Opera and Ballet launch their  2010/11 seasons: The Finnish Cultural Foundation and  FNO invite thousands of schoolchildren to the Opera without charge. (BK)

Picture © Finnish National Opera and Ballet

The performing season at the Finnish National Opera opened last Friday with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin but the first premiere of the season will be the grand opera Aida in a production directed by Georg Rootering on 17th September. Beginning in November, Korngold’s too rarely performed masterpiece Die tote Stadt will be brought to the stage in a new production conducted by Mikko Franck, FNO’s Artistic Director and directed by Kasper Holten, Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Opera. Robin Hood, an ‘opera adventure’ by Finnish composer Jukka Linkola for the whole family – especially boys – will be premiered in January. The libretto is by Jukka Virtanen, and the production will be directed by Kari Heiskanen. The fourth new production this season will be Il trittico, Puccini’s classic triple bill of short operas (Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi), directed by Finnish directors Johanna Freundlich, Katariina Lahti and Ville Saukkonen and conducted by Mikko Franck.

The autumn's dance premieres will be included in a double bill with two world firsts: Blood Wedding, a powerful work by British choreographer Cathy Marston, and Scheherazade, a fairy-tale by Kenneth Greve, Artistic Director of Finnish National Ballet. The sensuous full-length ballet Manon choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan will be premiered in March, and a triple bill of new works by Finnish woman choreographers – Virpi Pahkinen, Mammu Rankanen and Johanna Nuutinen – will be staged in the Almi Hall in May. Late September and early October will feature a tribute to Jorma Uotinen, who will be returning to the Finnish National Ballet for a celebration of his 40-year career. The Uotinen triple bill will feature his works Ballet Pathétique, the solo work La Diva, and Black Water, the latter performed by the Skåne Dance Theatre from Malmö, Sweden.

Joint projects in this season will include a music theatre production based on Carmen, the partners including DuvTeatern and the Blue Flamenco dance school. This project will bring together disabled and non-disabled actors, dancers and singers. In the project entitled Tähän asti (So far), three choirs of senior citizens will work with music students at the Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in a production with music and dance.

7000 Children To See Operas For Free

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Finnish National Opera in 2011, an invitation is being extended to 7,000 schoolchildren in 7th grade all around Finland to attend an opera performance for free. This major outreach project was jointly created by the Finnish Cultural Foundation, which will pay for the opera tickets and travel expenses of the schoolchildren and their supervisors, and the FNO, which will provide training for teachers to enable them to prepare their pupils for the experience.

Any school in Finland may sign up to participate, and the schools receiving the free tickets will be chosen by  lottery. Three performances of the new opera Robin Hood by Jukka Linkola have been reserved for school groups only, and also one performance of Il barbiere di Siviglia in spring 2011. School groups also have predetermined ticket quotas for performances of The Magic Flute, Olli Kortekangas’s Isän tyttö (Daddy’s Girl), La Cenerentola, Il trittico, Rheingold and Boris Godunov in 2011.

Three New Trainee Singers

Three trainee soloists were engaged at the FNO as of August 2010. The appointment is for one year. The three trainees are Finnish mezzosoprano Melis Jaatinen, Swedish soprano Hanna Husáhr and Estonian bass Koit Soasepp. They will be working alongside the regular soloists and international guest soloists of the FNO and will each be appearing in several roles during the season. “We wanted to offer talented new singers an opportunity for professional development. Being an opera singer is a job that you can only learn by doing, by performing in opera roles in professional productions,” says Mikko Franck, Artistic Director of the Opera,

Melis Jaatinen will be appearing as the Second Woman in The Magic Flute, Lucienne in Die tote Stadt and the Monitress in Suor Angelica. Hanna Husáhr’s roles will include Adina in L’elisir d’amore, the High Priestess in Aida and Sister Osmina in Suor Angelica. Koit Soasepp will be heard as Gremin in Eugene Onegin, the Bonze in Madama Butterfly and Talpa in Il tabarro.

Opera for all Finland with YLE and Ondine

Last season, FNO began to work with the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) to make opera performances all over Finland. In the 2010–2011 season, Leevi Madetoja’s opera Pohjalaisia (The Ostrobothnians) will be broadcast on YLE Radio 1, and a performance of Korngold’s Die tote Stadt will be seen on TV on the YLE Teema channel. Last season, the opera Punainen viiva (The Red Line) by Aulis Sallinen was broadcast on TV and the opera Aleksis Kivi by Einojuhani Rautavaara on radio.

Punainen viiva,
a milestone in Finnish opera, will also be released on DVD on the Ondine label in August. Recorded at the FNO in 2008, it features Päivi Nisula and Jorma Hynninen in the principal roles and is conducted by Mikko Franck. Other releases of FNO performances include L’amour de loin by Kaija Saariaho (Deutsche Grammophon 2005) and Rasputin by Rautavaara (Ondine 2005). A DVD release is also planned for Die tote Stadt.

FNO's Centenary in 2011

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of the FNO, since its history goes back to the founding of the Domestic Opera by Aino Ackté and Edvard Fazer in autumn 1911. There will be two world premieres of Finnish operas in the centenary year: Robin Hood by Jukka Linkola in the spring and an opera featuring the life of Aino Ackté by Ilkka Kuusisto in the autumn. A detailed programme of the repertoire and other events of the centenary year will be published in November.

New Improved Surtitling For Opera

Opera productions at FNO are mostly performed in their original languages, and surtitling is provided to help the audience follow the action. A new surtitling system allows surtitles in three languages instead of the previous two: as of August 2010, all performances will have surtitles in Finnish, Swedish and English. Swedish surtitles have been on the wish list for a long time.

Finnish National Ballet's  Festival of Finnish Contemporary Dance

The FNB will be organising a festival of Finnish contemporary dance in the Almi Hall at the FNO in February and March 2011. A call is currently out for completed productions by choreographers resident in Finland; applications may be submitted until the end of August. The festival is being compiled by Kenneth Greve, Artistic Director of the Ballet an will also feature a dance seminar and meetings of performers.

New Dancers At The Finnish National Ballet

Julie Gardette has been engaged as a solo dancer with the FNB. Born in France 28 years ago, she trained as a ballet dancer in Lyon from 1990 to 1999. Before joining the FNB, she was engaged at the Marseille Ballet, the Zurich Ballet, the Netherlands National Ballet and the Norwegian National Ballet. This autumn, she will be appearing in the leading roles in Swan Lake and Sheherazade.  The other new dancers with the FNB from this autumn are Carmen de Freitas Nunes, Annabelle Hellinckx, Claire Voss, Andrea Bena and Ilya Bolotov, and also the former FNB dancer trainees Guilherme Gameiro Alves and Nikolas Koskivirta. Finnish National Ballet currently has 76 members, representing 14 nationalities, and nine dancer trainees. Seven new dancer trainees were engaged this autumn.

Bill Kenny


Details of all opera and ballet productions are available from the Finnish National Opera web site (also recently revised) in Finnish, Swedish and English.

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