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Esa-Pekka Salonen appointed first-ever Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet

Photo © Katja Tähjä.

Photo © Katja Tähjä.

Beginning this season, Salonen will assume a diverse and comprehensive role as a conductor, composer, artistic advisor and ambassador. His five-year engagement begins with the current production of Elektra and continues through 2021.

The Finnish National Opera and Ballet (FNOB) has appointed composer, conductor and creative forceEsa-Pekka Salonen Artist in Association, a newly created, five-year position. In this capacity, Salonen will have a broad remit: conducting performances, introducing his compositions into the repertoire and acting as artistic advisor. The Artist in Association relationship includes duties beyond artistic tasks, as Salonen will act as an ambassador for the FNOB in developing new partnerships.

Salonen’s first appearance on the podium will be at the premiere of Elektra on 2 September. He will also conduct the four premieres of the FNOB’s new Ring cycle beginning in 2019. His other conducting duties will be announced separately for each season.

“We have always been interested in the art and thinking of Esa-Pekka Salonen, whether as a conductor, a composer or a cultural personality. We are pleased that at this point in his remarkable career he is willing to commit to wide-ranging support of Finnish opera and ballet. He will inspire both performers and audiences”, says Lilli Paasikivi, Artistic Director of the Finnish National Opera.

“During the last thirty years, the majority of my work as a conductor and composer has taken place abroad. It feels good to finally make long-term plans in my native country, and especially at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, where the flame of artistic ambition is bright and powerful”, says Esa-Pekka Salonen. “Opera interests me more and more as an art form, and I’m very enthusiastic and excited about the future collaboration with the excellent team of the FNOB.”

The FNOB will also appoint a conductor to lead performances throughout the season and oversee the continuous improvement of the orchestra.

Another aim of the new venture is for Salonen to mentor emerging Finnish conductors: the young and talented Klaus Mäkelä (b. 1996) has been appointed as Salonen’s assistant for the upcoming Ring cycle.

Finnish National Ballet’s visit to Copenhagen opens Finland’s centenary year

The guest performances to be given by the Finnish National Ballet in Copenhagen on 27–29 January 2017 is one of the spearhead moments of the official celebrations for the centenary of Finland’s independence and the first such event to be held in the Nordic countries. The FNB will give four performances of one of its major hits, The Snow Queen, at the Royal Danish Ballet on 27–29 January. The visit has special significance not only because The Snow Queen is based on the familiar story by Danish author H.C. Andersen but also because choreographer Kenneth Greve, Artistic Director of the FNB, is Danish and a former member of the Royal Danish Ballet.

While the FNB is away, the distinguished Eifman Ballet from Russia will give guest performances in the main auditorium on 12–15 January. Known for their pioneering productions, the company will be performing two works by their director Boris Eifman, both exploring the life of a great artist.Tchaikovsky. PRO et CONTRA is a recent work, having been premiered in St Petersburg in May 2016. RODIN, which dates from 2011, reflects on the complicated love affair of two artists, Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel. There will be two performances of both works.

Rap artist Paleface to provide lyrics for school opera about tolerance

Karri Miettinen, better known as rap artist Paleface, will be writing the lyrics for a new participatory opera for schoolchildren. Titled Ihmepoika A [Wonder boy A], the opera will be composed by Timo Hietala and directed by Riikka Oksanen, with visual design by Anna Kontek. The performances will be produced jointly by professionals and pupils in the 5th and 6th grades. The premiere will be given by Kaisaniemi Comprehensive School at Almi Hall on 7 April, after which the production will visit as many as 80 schools around Finland beginning in autumn 2017.

Ihmepoika A is the seventh school opera commissioned by the FNOB. Over the years, more than 20,000 adolescents have participated in the making of an opera. The Ihmepoika A project will involve a director, three soloists and two musicians working with participating school classes. The FNOB will also provide sets, costumes, makeup and basic stage equipment.

The school opera project supports the new national curriculum and features a topic with current relevance. Ihmepoika A is about differences and multiculturalism. “Paleface, being a rap artist who writes powerful lyrics, is an excellent choice for this new project,” says Tuula Jukola-Nuorteva,Head of Education.

A season of grand stories 2016–2017

The autumn season of the FNOB starts off on 26 August with the premiere of Romeo and Juliet, a new dance work by Natália Horečná. The second new full-length ballet of the autumn is Alice in Wonderland by Jorma Elo, to be premiered on 7 October. In May 2017, the centenary of Finland’s independence will be celebrated with a quadruple bill of Finnish choreographers entitled Voima[Force], featuring works by Susanna Leinonen, Virpi Pahkinen, Jyrki Karttunen and Jorma Uotinen.

Audiences will be treated to two new opera productions in September. After the eagerly awaited premiere of Elektra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen on 2 September there will be something completely different: a marriage of two great arts, circus and opera. “This is a night of surprises. InCircOpera, we hope to give audiences laughter, smiles, excitement and danger,” says director Jere Erkkilä. The other new opera productions being premiered this season are The Flying Dutchman (18 November), Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (27 January), Blank Out (Musica nova Helsinki, 4 February),Eugene Onegin (17 March) and Only the Sound Remains by Kaija Saariaho (12 April).

The full repertoire including revivals, concerts and other events are listed on our website, Tickets for performances in the autumn are now on sale. Tickets for performances in spring 2017 will go on sale on 4 October 2016.

See Natália Horečnás interview.

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