Savonlinna Opera Festival

Savonlinna Opera Festival
The Savonlinna Opera Festival (Savonlinnan oopperajuhlat) is the longest-running opera festival in Finland and one of the country’s most significant cultural events. The festival is held in the city of Savonlinna. Its main venue is Olavinlinna (Olaf’s Castle), a 15th-century castle located in an island in the Kyrönsalmi strait.

The history of the Savonlinna Opera Festival is closely tied to Finland’s struggle for independence and the emerging of Finnish national identity in the early 20th century. In 1907, Finnish soprano Aino Ackté participated in a nationalist meeting that was held at Olavinlinna. She immediately realized that the medieval castle was a perfect venue for an opera festival that would help promote Finnish music and culture.

It took several years to organize the first festival. The inaugural Savonlinna opera festival took place in 1912. Ackté served as the festival director for five years, staging almost exclusively Finnish operas. The only exception was Faust by Charles Gounod. It was the natural choice in that Ackté had excelled the leading female role of Marguerite.

Sadly, the festival was discontinued after its 1917 edition because of World War I, the Finnish Declaration of Independence in December 1917 and the subsequent Finnish Civil War. The Savonlinna Opera Festival was dormant for five decades. It was resurrected by the Savonlinna Music Days, a series of concerts first organized by composer Yrjö Kilpinen in 1955. The Savonlinna Music Days introduced an opera course for young singers in the early 1960s and reinstated the opera festival in 1967.

Originally a one-week event, the Savonlinna Opera Festival has grown into a month-long internationally recognized opera festival. In addition to hosting foreign opera companies from around the world, the festival regularly stages its own productions. Operas that premiered at the Savonlinna Opera Festival include The Horsman, The King Goes Forth to France and The Peace by Aulis Sallinen, The Knife by Paavo Heininen, Aleksis Kivi by Einojuhani Rautavaara, and The Age of Dreams by Kalevi Aho, Olli Kortekangas and Herman Rechberger.

The Savonlinna Opera Festival attracts an audience of around 60,000 each year, an estimated quarter of whom come from abroad. It is regarded as one of the most anticipated events in the cultural calendar of Finland as well as an event of great international significance.

Savonlinna Opera Festival

Photo: explorish




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