Our privacy policy was last updated on Friday 31 January 2020View it hereDismiss
Sign in
Bachtrack logo
Home
What's on
Reviews
Articles
Video
Site
Festivals home
EventsReviewsArticlesVideo

Guide to the Savonlinna Opera Festival

Biography
Olavinlinna Castle
Olavinlinna Castle

July 2 - 31, 2021 (postponed from July 3 – August 1, 2020)

“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.

Where is it?

Savonlinna is located in southeast Finland in the heart of Europe’s largest lake district.

How to get there?

Savonlinna is around 4 hours by road or rail from both Helsinki and St. Petersburg, and under an hour by plane from Helsinki to the Savonlinna Airport (SVL).

Local accommodation

In summer, you can take your pick from Savonlinna’s range of comfortable hotels, cosy lakeside cottages and affordable hostels. Hotel room for July should be booked at least 6 months in advance.

What can tourists visit nearby?

Savonlinna is a beautiful and lively city of around 35,000 people in Eastern Finland, situated by Lake Saimaa, the heart of the Saimaa lake region. The varied nature of the area of Savonlinna shows the beauty and gracefulness of Finland’s Lakeland. From Savonlinna, a traveller can quickly get to the beautiful scenery of Punkaharju, so characteristic of Finland, the rugged rocky shores of Kolovesi National Park, and the open waters and many islands of Linnansaari National Park. Visitors can also easily travel to St Petersburg by bus or car.

About Savonlinna Opera festival

The Savonlinna Opera festival offers its visitors a number of opera productions with multiple performances, produced by the festival or guest opera houses. The festival programme also includes concert appearances by some of the world’s greatest opera artists.

What festival venue

The venue for the Savonlinna Opera Festival is a towering medieval castle, Olavinlinna, surrounded by Finland’s largest lake. All of the performances take place in the courtyard, where every summer a covered auditorium is built for over 2,200 people. The temperature in the auditorium is dependent on the weather conditions outside.

Dress code

The Festival has no official dress code, but visitors are reminded that Olavinlinna is a medieval castle, with a courtyard which can be cool even on a summer evening. Visitors should be prepared for different weather conditions, from cool and rainy nights to high temperatures. The Castle passages and floors are very uneven, so stout shoes are recommended.

Food & Drink

During the intervals of the festival performances, refreshments can be booked at any of the four points: the Vesiportti (Water Gate) immediately after the entrance to the Castle, the Linnantupa (Castle Hall) off the passage leading to the auditorium, the Paksu bastioni (Thick Tower) on the far right of the auditorium, or on the terrace on the castle walls, which offers a fascinating view. The festival recommends to take refreshments from the point most easily accessible from your seat. Before and after the performances you can have dinner in the castle or at one of the many lake-side restaurants near the venue. All the local restaurants are open after the performances, ready to serve the hungry opera lovers, but it is suggested to book your table in advance. 

Why visit the Savonlinna Opera festival

The festival offers an unforgettable experience, providing its visitors with first-class opera performances in a romantic medieval castle with excellent acoustic, surrounded by lake scenery of extraordinary beauty. Arriving to the castle by boat from the centre of Savonlinna, is something you should not miss.

For full information, visit the Savonlinna Opera Festival website.

Festival Preview 2020
Olavinlinna castle © Valtteri Hirvonen

From Violetta to Vikings: the 2020 Savonlinna Opera Festival

We spoke to Ville Matvejeff, the new artistic director of the Savonlinna Opera Festival, to find out more about this year's programme. 
Upcoming eventsSee more...

SavonlinnaCarmen

Savonlinna Opera Festival
Bizet: Carmen
Matti Hyökki; Marianne Mörck; Anna Kontek; Ann-Mari Anttila; Tuija Knihtilä; Amadi Lagha

SavonlinnaKing Roger

Savonlinna Opera Festival
Szymanowski: King Roger, (Król Roger) Op.46
Ville Matvejeff; Krystian Lada; Didzis Jaunzems; Karol Kozłowski; Fredrik Zetterström; Helena Juntunen
Latest reviewsSee more...

Satan, sex, blood and redemption: Faust in Finland

Clemens Unterreiner (Valentin) © Valtteri Hirvonen
Auguin conducted as if he really believes in this evergreen work, which was wonderful to hear in the composer’s rather overlooked anniversary year.
****1
Read more

Staging, spectacle, singing: three-card trick at Savonlinna

Misha Didyk (Hermann) © Valtteri Hirvonen
This was more stadium rock than stuffy opera house, lighting as ‘metaphor made real’ as the lovers were – literally – star-struck, blinded by love.
****1
Read more

Butterfly's castle: Puccini soars at Savonlinna

Sae-Kyung Rim (Cio-Cio-San) and Mikael Kohi © Soila Puurtinen
There is a reason that Butterfly has the highest blub factor in the repertory, for it is not only for Cio-Cio-San that we weep, but for ourselves. 
****1
Read more

McVicar 's Rigoletto travels to the Savonlinna Festival

Ramë Lahaj (The Duke of Mantua) and Tuuli Takala (Gilda) © Soila Puurtinen, Itä-Savo
David McVicar's production may divide audiences with its no holds barred approach to the debauchery of the court of Mantua, but is well worth seeing for the Gilda of Tuuli Takala.
****1
Read more
Looking back at previous editions
The Queen of Spades at Olavinlinna © Savonlinna opera festival

Back to the castle: Jere Erkkilä on Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades

Ahead of his new production of the tragic opera at Savonlinna Opera Festival, we talk to the director about his plans for the work and his background in circus. 
Aulis Sallinen © Soppakanuuna | Wikicommons

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”.