The Savonlinna Opera Festival gets under way on Friday. It begins with Mozart’s good-humoured The Abduction from the Seraglio and a new vocal work by Aulis Sallinen: The Castle in the Water described as a chronicle for narrator, four singers, orchestra – and Olavinlinna. The season’s third new production is Rigoletto, in a staggeringly bold direction by Sir David McVicar.
Opening the Festival on July 7 is a new direction by Katariina Lahti of Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, with a cast of exciting soloists that includes Mirella Bunoaica, Hulkar Sabirova, Lucrezia Drei, Claire de Sévigné and Sebastian Wirnitzer and two Finns – Tuomas Katajala and Jussi Myllys – fast making a name for themselves on the international scene. Seraglio will be conducted by Christoph Altstaedt.
The first weekend will also be celebrating the Republic of Finland 100 this year. The new vocal work by Aulis Sallinen on July 8 is his fourth Opera Festival premiere. Based on a text by Lassi Nummi, The Castle in the Water is a tribute to Finland and Olavinlinna Castle. “Like all our castles, Olavinlinna is part of our independence,” says Sallinen. “Our independence can by no means be taken for granted; it’s the result of a lot of hard, persistent work. This, I believe, is one of the main tenets of this chronicle.”
Singing in the concert conducted by Ville Matvejeff will be Tiina-Maija Koskela, Tuija Knihtilä, Jussi Myllys and Tommi Hakala. Also back on the programme on July 8 is Sallinen’s powerful Kullervo, which last gripped audiences in 2014.
The Rigoletto directed by Scottish Sir David McVicar looks to be bold and boisterous. Conducting the performances beginning on July 10 is France’s Philippe Auguin, and cast in the leading roles are Kiril Manolov, Claudio Otelli, Rame Lahaj and Ivan Magri with Finnish stars Tuuli Takala, Hanna Rantala, Mika Kares and Petri Lindroos.
Supplementing the Festival’s own productions are some operatic gems seldom seen or heard in Finland, in performances by the season’s two guest opera companies, the Bolshoi Theatre from Moscow and the Teatro Real Madrid. The Savonlinna Opera Festival will this year have been hosting such prestigious opera-house visits to Olavinlinna for 30 years already.
In addition to opera, the summer evenings will also echo to some lighter music. Iiro Rantala will be jumping the gun with a concert on July 6, and the Festival will end with a concert by J. Karjalainen in Olavinlinna Castle on August 6.
See the full programme for this year’s Savonlinna Opera Festival here.