Soprano Camilla Nylund guest stars in the role of Marja
The 100-year anniversary celebration of the Finnish National Opera will reach a climax on December 2 when a new adaptation of a masterpiece of Finnish opera, Juha by Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958), will premiere on the FNO main stage. Based on a popular novel by the beloved Finnish author Juhani Aho (1861-1921), Merikanto's Juha has established itself as a cornerstone of Finnish opera, a full-blooded feast of orchestration rich with colourism. For many reasons, however, the opera was not performed for decades. Composed in 1922, Juha appeared on the FNO stage for the first time only in 1967. Juha went on to remain Merikanto's only opera.
This year the FNO is proud to present the first-ever modern rendition of Juha. The bold interpretation from Director Anna Kelo places the traditional love triangle story in a contemporary setting. Juha is the owner of a run-down petrol station left in the shadows by a new highway. He loses his wife to Shemeikka, who offers Marja a life of leisure in the new money enclaves of Tallinn. Marja rejects her former life and dives into the unknown. And so begins a chain of events that unavoidably lead to tragedy.
In the original work Shemeikka is a smooth-talking con man that, to Marja's surprise, has a horde of other women waiting at home. This latest production raises the stakes even higher: Shemeikka is in fact a human trafficker and Marja becomes a victim of forced prostitution - a theme that is certainly topical today.
Conducted by FNO Artistic Director Mikko Franck, baritones Tommi Hakala and Jaakko Kortekangas sing the role of Juha, Camilla Nylund guests the FNO and appears as Marja and the tenor Jyrki Anttila appears as Shemeikka. Jani Uljas is responsible for set design, with Erika Turunen designing costumes and Mikki Kunttu acting as lighting designer. Ari Numminen choreographed the sequences performed by the Tsuumi Dance Company.