Guide to the Savonlinna Opera Festival

The Castle in the Water: a new work for Savonlinna

Savonlinna’s contribution to the centenary has been to commission a new work from the country’s senior operatic composer, Aulis Sallinen. Not an opera per se in this case, but what he describes as a “chronicle for speaker, four singers, orchestra and Olavinlinna”.
Biography
Savonlinna Opera Festival
Savonlinna Opera Festival

July 7th – August 4th, 2017

“You cannot believe how excellently suited the castle courtyard is for performances of this kind. First, its acoustics are most auspicious, then it is exceedingly spacious, and extra seats are to be had on the walls and ruins…” Aino Ackté 1912

An operatic wonder born of a dream

Aino Ackté, the most sparkling gem of Finnish vocal art, a cultural ambassador in her day and a highly-acclaimed star of the Paris and other grand operas, first visited Olavinlinna Castle in 1907. The medieval stone castle set amid lakes and islands decked out in their summer finery made an indelible impression and kindled in her a desire to perform opera in a setting unique the world over. Her dream came true, and opera was first performed in Olavinlinna Castle in 1912.

Martti Talvela a new tower of strength

The world changed and Finland won political independence. War and economic realities put an end to opera in Olavinlinna, but Aino Ackté’s legacy lived on. A new era dawned for the Opera Festival in the 1960s. As news of the Festival spread, a more stable economy and administration became imperative. The role of Director was shouldered by Martti Talvela. For seven years, he combined a spectacular international career with the artistic directorship of the Savonlinna Opera Festival and himself sang leading roles. Under his guidance, the Festival became one of the finest in the operatic world.

One of the world’s best-known opera festivals

The key to the Savonlinna Opera Festival’s success is its high artistic standard. Bearing the biggest responsibility for this today is the Festival’s Artistic Director Jorma Silvasti: “We make sure we engage the best Finnish talents, supplemented as the need arises by stars from abroad. We are particularly proud of our two great props and stays, our Savonlinna Opera Festival Choir and Orchestra. Over the years, top singers have emerged from the ranks of our Choir, and we intend to continue offering young Finnish singers a chance to advance in their careers.”

More than just opera

Building and maintaining an international reputation calls for cultural exchange across borders. In the words of the Festival’s General Director Jan Strandholm: “Visits by foreign opera houses and collaboration with other opera houses reinforce the Festival’s global status as a showpiece for Finland. The Festival’s exotic reputation annually attracts thousands of foreigners to Savonlinna. The Savonlinna Opera Festival is not just opera; it is a combination of an idyllic little town, unique lake scenery, light summer nights and a strong cultural spirit. It is an experience like no other, at a point where East meets West, sheltered by the smiling walls of a medieval castle.”

The Savonlinna Opera Festival in brief

The Savonlinna Opera Festival is the Finnish cultural event best known internationally and a leading Finnish tourist attraction. Over the years it has grown into an international festival lasting one month. It attracts an annual total audience of around 60,000, a good 10 per cent from abroad. A visit to the opera in Savonlinna is an all-round experience made up of first-class opera performances and concerts, the unique atmosphere of a medieval castle and the beautiful town of Savonlinna in summer, set amid lakes, islands and forests. Savonlinna has become a concept among opera-lovers the world over. The budget for the 2014 Festival is €8.3m, of which about 80% is self-financed and 20% grants (the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Town of Savonlinna).

Savonlinna – an opera town surrounded by lakes

The Savonlinna Opera Festival is held in the great, unique courtyard of a medieval castle. Called Olavinlinna, the castle has excellent acoustics and a covered 2,264-seat auditorium. Savonlinna is an idyllic little town of just under 37,000 inhabitants in Eastern Finland, at the heart of the biggest lake region in Europe. It lies some 300 km by road or rail from Helsinki, or just under an hour by air.

For full information, visit the Savonlinna Opera Festival website.

READ OUR PREVIEW OF THE 2016 FESTIVAL

Preview: Savonlinna Opera Festival 2016

Savonlinna's atmospheric castle plays host to visitors from Ravenna and Torino in a festival that joins in the Shakespeare anniversary celebrations.
READ REVIEWS OF PAST FESTIVALS

A Finnish swan song at Savonlinna

Matti Salminen and conductor Leif Segerstam come together, probably for the last time, to give us an excellent evening's opera which touched the heart of Boris Godunov – a Finnish swan song as potent as anything penned by Sibelius.
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A Tosca to set the nerves jangling in Savonlinna

The atmospheric surroundings of St Olaf's Castle in Savonlinna host a well acted and well sung Tosca, with opera and chorus on top form as well as three highly credible soloists.
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