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Laura Voipio’s Regine wins libretto competition

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5/8/2017 11:20 AM

The Savonlinna Opera Festival’s national libretto competition has been won by Laura Voipio with a libretto entitled Regine that brought her the main prize of €20,000. The two other prizes, each worth €5,000, went to Pekka Hako for Mr Anaconda (working title) and Juhani Koivisto for Vangit.

The poetic winning libretto operates at many levels and tells the life story of Danish Regine Olsen (1822–1904), and especially her relationship with theologian-philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. They were engaged for only a year when Regine was less than 20 years old, but their relationship made a deep impression on both their lives – and Kierkegaard’s whole output. Based on true characters and events, the script also has the makings of a love triangle set both in Denmark and in St Croix, in what used to be the Danish West Indies.

Laura Voipio, a translator and singer, has a background in publishing. Her own literary output consists of picture and non-fiction books for children, and the libretto for the opera Maailman valo performed in 2010. She became familiar with the world of opera while singing in the Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir from 1995 to 2013.

“I’ve been interested in philosophy ever since I was a schoolgirl, and poetry, along with children’s literature, means most to me,” she says. “So I felt I was on home ground writing a libretto. Being a singer, I listen really carefully to the length of the words and the vowels, and how they can be sung.

“Envisaging the scenes in an opera is very much like writing a picture book – the event exists in your mind as images you have to communicate to the listener in very compact form. My own musical and stage experience has been vital to me in my writing.”

Keen competition

The Opera Festival’s Artistic Director Jorma Silvasti reports that Voipio’s libretto ultimately stood out as the best of the five shortlisted by a selection team at the end of March. There was little to choose between the top three.

“As one member of the team put it, the subjects of the 54 librettos entered for the competition ranged from ‘The Red Line to La bohème’. Regine, with its international perspective, stood out from the mainstream oriented towards Finnish history. As I read the libretto of Regine, I personally was taken by the theme and by the beautiful way it described both the power and feelings of love and the many levels of the 19th-century world.”

The names of neither the competitors nor the members of the selection team were disclosed; this avoided any conflict of interests and meant the team could work unencumbered. Silvasti himself did not know the real names of the writers until after the team had made its selection.

“A new team will be convening in May to seek a composer for the winning libretto,” he says. “The winner is, if necessary, committed to revising the libretto with the composer. The opera will not be staged in Olavinlinna Castle until 2019 at the earliest, because these are lengthy processes for both the composer and the production planning.”

Further info: Artistic Director Jorma Silvasti, tel. +358 44 743 3631, jorma.silvasti@operafestival.fi