Savonlinna Opera Festival - First Days
I arrived at Savonlinna yesterday afternoon to work at the legendary Savonlinna Opera Festival which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. I have visited this town only once before, and that was as a cellist with my piano trio when we took part in a chamber music competition here. This time I came to make my debut on the big opera stage (after conducting several chamber opera productions earlier). I feel really privileged to be able to do that on "home ground" so to say. It felt just magical to walk into the picturesque landscape of Savonlinna and see the Olavinlinna castle emerge from the surrounding lake view! Is that really where I'll be working for the next three weeks?
The opera I am conducting, Free Will, is a world premiere, and an experimental one. It started in 2010 under name "Opera By You" with a call for librettos on the Internet, and proceeded with volunteers all around the world submitting bits and pieces of music which the Finnish composer Markus Fagerudd pieced together this spring to make it a coherent whole. In essence it is a "community opera", and the idea is not too far from the ballad operas of the 18th century. The whole process has been completely open and it will continue so until the dress rehearsal. All our rehearsals are streamed live on the Internet as well as the performance! The spectators can watch our opera making process from all around the world and communicate via chat with each other and the director of the webcast.
A month ago I already had an orchestra rehearsal with the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra which will be the opera orchestra for this work, and today I met the cast for the first time. We are a really international bunch coming from all over the world - Finland, Russia, USA, Argentina! We started with a music rehearsal, going thru the whole piece from beginning to end, and tomorrow we will work on the music of the different scenes more closely. On Thursday the stage director Jere Erkkilä will take over and start moving the singers all around the stage. The first day was already a lot of fun and I am looking forward to a great production and making many new friends in the process!