FINNISH NATIONAL OPERA
Carol Main talks to Jorma Hynninen artistic director of the Finnish National Opera.
One of the most exciting things about a Festival like Edinburgh‘s is the surprise element. Shows which everyone expects to walk offwith the spoils of success can often turn out to be dismal disappointments. Yet. conversely. productions ofwhich little is known can so often be the greatest highlights. Very little is known about Finnish National Opera‘s British premiere of Juha (which may explain the slowness of ticket sales). but for those with a penchant for adventure this may bring some of the richest rewards of the Festival. Written in the 1920s by the Finnish composer Aarre Merikanto. it is. according to Finnish National Opera‘s Artistic Director. Jorma Hynninen (who also takes the title role in one of the two performances). ‘a very important opera for all modern Finnish opera as it is the first which was written in a modern way. It is not atonal music - it is very beautiful music and we can hear its influence in later Finnish operas. with the same kind ofmusical feeling and thinking behind them.‘ Incredibly. although a major work in the Finnish repertoire. it was not heard until about 40 years after it was written. ‘Nobody could understand it before‘ says Hynninen. 'but. ofcourse. nowadays when we speak about the music ofJuha and compare it with other modern operas we can say that the music is quite old-fashioned. It is beautiful music with a lot ofemotions. I think that Finnish people all like emotions!‘
The storyline appears reasonably straightforward. Hynninen explains it as ‘a family drama about a man and wife. Juha is an old man in the eastern part of Finland and he has a young. beautiful wife. In the beginning their life was happy. but when the years went by this wife didn‘t like the old man anymore. A young man. a travelling salesman. came to their house and the wife. Maria. fell in love with him and wanted to go with him and so she left Juha.‘
In the same way as Scottish Opera might feel going abroad (should it ever be in a position to tour). Finnish National Opera see their visit to Edinburgh. which involves the whole company. as highly significant. ‘We know that the Festival is one of the most famous in the world and it’s a big honour for us to come here.‘ admits Hynninen. ‘We started to arrange this trip four years ago. It‘s very important for a small country like Finland to present Finnish opera and show how it is alive in Finland — where just normal people have a very big interest in opera — and to show how we do classical opera. so we are also doing Rigoletto.‘
Hynninen. as well as being Artistic Director of the company and singing the title role in Juha. also sings the title role of Rigoletto. ‘Musically and physically it‘s quite heavy. as Rigoletto is on almost all ofthe time. I‘m a lyric baritone’. he says. and as if perhaps speaking for all of Finnish Opera. ‘but I do it my own way'.
Finnish National Opera, King ’3 Theatre, Leven Street. Juha. Friday 28 and Sunday 30, 7.30pm. Rigoletto. Wednesday 26 and Saturday 29. 7.30pm (sold out). Credit cards and reservations:
FESTIVAL O BRITISH YOUTH ORCHESTRAS
Functioning as a fairly self contained Festival in its own right. but still holding onto the umbilical cord offered by the Fringe, isthe Festival of British Youth Orchestras at the Central Hall. Tollcross.
Now in its eighth year. this event has grown to include foreign guest orchestras as well as over 20 from Britain. First came Helsinki Junior Strings with their near unbelievable string playing. Clearand sure. yet warm and full of colour. this young group has built up a reputation many professional orchestras would dearly love to add to theircalling cards. Blond and too tinylor a full size instrument. their 8 year-old cello soloist mesmerised the audience with a dashing Tarantella played without a scrap of written music.
Opening their UK Concert Tour. Hong Kong Youth Symphony Orchestra
. diplomatically broughta
fair amount of British music in the form ofVaughan Williams' Folk Song Suite. Britten’s Simple Symphony and Handel's Water Music. Strong. well disciplined forces under conductors Thomas Wang and Yip Wing Sie were in evidence atall times.
Although many more concerts are still to be
CLASSICAL I _
given. British visitors have started to arrive. Caledonia Brass. in a guest appearance. displayed some stunning quintet playing. every bitas polished astheir gleaming instruments. while Gloucestershire Young
People's String Ensemble presented some rarities (notably John Marsh's Suite for Viola and Strings with a powerful exponent in Richard Crabtree). as well asthe more popular Rolberg and St Paul's Suites. Concerts continue at 12.30pm and 7.30pm until Saturday 29.
0 Festival of British Youth Orchestras. National Association of Youth Orchestras. Central Hall. Tollcross (venue 100) 8-29 August. 12.30pm and 7.30pm. £3.00 (OAP's £1.50). Lunchtimes £1.00. (children. students. UBAO's freeto all performances).
PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Forthe first time. the Edinburgh Festival has a resident orchestra. Forthe second time it has Arthur Oldham back as Festival Chorus Master. The first of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's concerts with Lorin Maazel on Friday 21 sees the joining ofthese American and Scottish forces in Beethoven's Choral Symphony. It really is a new experience all
round. as Oldham says ‘It's the first with Pittsburgh and a first for me and Maazel. although we're doing it in Paris later in the year'. You might think that such a union of musicians in such a big work might cause problems with rehearsals. but no. says Oldham ‘Everyone is veryfamiliar with Beethoven 9. and I've obviously prepared the Chorus throughout the year. I've also had a meeting with Maazel. been through the score and we've discussed his interpretation in detail.‘ Beethoven's Symphony No 8 makes up the first halfof
this concert. and there are 4 I
other Pittsburgh programmes to choose from. The all American evening (Copland. Gerswhin and Bernstein) on Wednesday 25. again with Edinburgh Festival Chorus. but with Michael Tilson
Thomas as conductor. could ;
be a particular highlight.
0 Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Usher Hall. Lothian Road. Fri 21. Sat 22. Sun 23. Tue 25 and Wed 26 Aug. All at8pm. £4.50-£16.50. Credit cards and reservations: 225 5755.
OPENING CONCERT BOLSHOI THEATRE ORCHESTRA
This year's Festival Opening Concert was quite an event. Given by Moscow’s Orchestra ofthe Bolshoi Theatre. it took at least 15 minutes before a packed Usher Hall heard any music. This was thefirst ever live broadcast from the Westto the East and after Scottish Television's Gus McDonald made his introductory speech. the Soviet ambassador brought a predictably glasnostic message from Mr Gorbachov. first in English then in Russian.
Disappointing then, that Rimsky-Korsakov's Suite from The Legend ofthe Invisible City of Kitizh came across as heavy and solid, although when this orchestra is in full swing it's undoubtably an impressive sound. Irina Arkhipova. heard at the Festival in 1984. was impassioned and dramatic in Songs and Dances of Death. the orchestra supporting with the dark. menacing rhythms of Mussorgsky's score. All very serious stuff.
It was interesting. then. to heariust six ofthe Bolshoi musicians at a morning concert in the Queen‘s Hall. The Sextet by the Russian contemporary composer Barkauskas was certainly more demanding on its performers than its listeners and very
old-fashioned to our cars. But the playing of these Russian musicians is so precise and clean. one could just about listen to them playing anything. Rachmaninov's Elegia. originallylor piano. is absolute slush. butthe magic of its romance. its sweeping surges of sound. makes it slush ofthe highest degree.
Away from all the highfliers at the King's and Leith Theatres. opera doesn't exactlyflourish on the Fringe. but there is some. Cumbria Opera give what is presumably a concert performance of Mozart’s Bastien and Bastienne at St Mark's in Castle Terrace and the SNO Youth and Junior Chorus. 300 young musicians in all. get together for Britten's Noye‘s Fludde at St Giles'. Also young and also performing a British opera is Malvem Music Theatre with their production of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. All about 18th-century low life in London. it's a satire on the politics and Italian operatic conventions of the day. (And was later to be the inspiration behind the Weill/BrechtThreepenny Opera.) Directed by Malvem College's Director of Drama. Nigel Turner. it‘s the company's second time in Edinburgh where. he says ‘We prefer to do something musical as well as dramatic. Beggar's Opera is a very different sort of show from Comus. which we did three years ago. and we hope it will be quite a popularshow. It's quite well known. but not done all that often.’ Of the 69 songs. this production has cut down to about half as. says Turner. 'We didn't reckon people would be happyto commit themselves to two hours at 4.15 inthe afternoon. so it lasts just over one hour. without an interval'. In Spite ofthe rogues. villains and squalidity of its content. Beggar's Opera sounds like a lot of fun for children and adults in a very lively production. 0 Bastien and Bastienne by Cumbria Opera. St Mark‘s. Castle Terrace. Fri 21. 7.30pm. £3.00 (£2.50) (Fr): Noye's Fludde. SNO Youth and Junior Chorus. St Giles' Cathedral. High Street. Wed 26. Thurs 27. Fri 28. 7.00 pm. £4.00 (£3.00) (Fr); The Beggar's Opera. Malvem Music Theatre. St Mary's Hall. St Mary's Street. Tue 25-Sat 29. 4.15pm. £2 (£1). Tickets: 557 4829.
I 'l'hclistll Aug 35cpt29