The performance season extends from August to June. There are some 300 performances each year, 190 of which on the main stage. The repertoire in any given season includes on average fifteen operas and nine ballets on the main stage. Seven or eight new productions are premiered each year on the main stage: fouror five operas and three or four ballets.
The Opera also organizes orchestral concerts, matinee concerts with free admission, events for kids and teens, and audience briefings where opera and ballet production teams discuss their work.
The Finnish National Opera is an employer on a significant scale: opera and ballet can only be created through the combined efforts of a great number of people. Permanent personnel number is 537: 110 orchestra members, 52 singers in the choir, 19 soloists, 77 ballet dancers and 55 other artistic or production personnel; 168 technical and workshop personnel; and 47 administrative personnel. It is an international crowd, representing altogether 27 nationalities. In addition to the permanent staff, about 1100 guest personnel visit the Finnish National Opera each year. There is also a Ballet School with 200 students, of whom 39 are studying to be professional dancers. (The figures are from December 2011.)
The General Director of the Finnish National Opera is Päivi Kärkkäinen, the Artistic Director of the Opera is Lilli Paasikivi, and the Artistic Director of the Ballet is Kenneth Greve.
The Opera House is equipped with modern stage technology measuring up to international standards, enabling high-quality opera and ballet performances and joint productions with opera houses abroad. The main auditorium seats 1,350, while Almi Hall seats 200 to 500, depending on the configuration.
The main stage has an area of 500 m2; the stage tower is 28 m high. The wings and backstage areas are big enough to accommodate the movement of large set components. The stage can be rotated, raised or lowered as the director and set designer require. The stage is divided into four sections, which can be moved independently up and down to create effects in performance or to bring set components up from storage to the stage level.
The orchestra pit can also be raised, lowered and resized according to the size of the orchestra and the acoustic effect required. The stage technology and orchestra pit of the main stage were renovated in 2007 to ensure safety and reliability.
Operas are performed in the original language, as is the international practice. A Finnish, Swedish and English translation is provided as surtitles, i.e. displayed at the top of the stage.
Opera performances have been given in Finland since the late 19th century. The Domestic Opera (later the Finnish Opera) was founded in 1911, and the Finnish Ballet in 1922. The name Finnish National Opera was adopted in 1956.
In 1918, the company took up residence in the old Russian theatre known as the Alexander Theatre on Bulevardi in Helsinki, and a project to build an opera house was proposed in the 1920s. However, it was not until 1993 that this ‘temporary' sojourn came to an end with the opening of Finland's first opera house on Töölönlahti bay.
The Opera House was designed by Hyvämäki-Karhunen-Parkkinen architects (1977). The elevations are finished in ceramic tile, render and natural stone, while the public spaces inside combine the lucidity of Carrara marble with the glow of red beech. The great glass wall of the main foyer opens out towards Töölönlahti bay and Hesperia Park. Almost all of the furniture and lighting fixtures were custom-designed for the Opera House.