At its meeting held Thursday, December 15th, 2011, the Board of the Finnish National Opera Foundation appointed opera singer Lilli Paasikivi as Artistic Director of the Opera. Prior to this decision, the Board heard the employee groups, all of whom submitted statements in support of her appointment.
The three-year temporary contractual period of the new Artistic Director of the Opera will begin on 1 August 2013 and contain a two-year option to continue.
The Artistic Director of the Opera is responsible for the artistic planning of the opera programme and concert activities, directing and developing artistic activities, and maintaining and developing the artistic standards of the opera. The Artistic Director is also responsible for the content and artistic profile of the various opera productions. The Artistic Director of the Opera works under the FNO General Director Päivi Kärkkäinen. The FNO General Director is in charge of the entire general management of the FNO organisation.
The search for a new Artistic Director of the Opera was based on a decision to separate the posts of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Opera following the expiry of the term of the current Artistic Director and General Music Director Mikko Franck.
The search for the new Artistic Director of the Opera was not open to the public, as the FNO secured the services of recruiting professionals. Upon implementation of the search, the FNO Foundation Board drew up a list of the following criteria for the position: a working knowledge of the field of opera, a clear artistic vision, strong connections with an international network of colleagues, charisma, the ability to work cooperatively, as well as the desire and ability to lead, organize and delegate. Potential director candidates were mapped out among a great number of artists working in Finland and the other Nordic countries. The Board's naming committee considered a list of dozens of candidates and made its final decision on the basis of interviews.
According to the grounds presented by the Board, out of this broad field of candidates, Lilli Paasikivi best fulfilled the set criteria for the position of Artistic Director of the Opera:
- she has a good education in and knowledge of the field of opera
- she is actively interested in the development of the Finnish National Opera
- she has a broad network of international contacts
- she is an outgoing communicator and can be constructively-critical in discussion
- she is an inspiring organizer and is eager to get things done
- she has the required charisma, both by virtue of her personal attributes and her successful career as a soloist
Thus far Lilli Paasikivi has relatively little managerial experience, but she has demonstrated natural leadership ability and a desire to learn more and is prepared to take part in managerial training as a matter of course.
Mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi, 46, completed a degree in voice from the Royal Swedish Academy in 1992, which she supplemented with studies in opera performance from the Opera School of the Royal College of Music in London in 1994. Lilli Paasikivi participated in The Lappeenranta Solo Voice Contest in 1992 winning second place, and came in second at The Mirjam Helin International Singing Competition in 1994. In 2008 Paasikivi was granted the Pro Finlandia medal of honour for her artistic accomplishments.
Paasikivi has been a principal soloist at the Finnish National Opera since 1995, and has been under permanent contract since 1998. She has performed in dozens of great opera roles over the years, including that of Fricka (Wagner: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre), Waltraute (Wagner: Götterdämmerung), Carmen (Bizet: Carmen), Dorabella (Mozart: Così fan tutte), Octavian (Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier), Tsarina Alexandra (Rautavaara: Rasputin), The Pilgrim (Saariaho: L'amour de loin) and Anna (Kortekangas: Isän tyttö (Daddy's Girl)).
The last few years have also seen Lilli Paasikivi perform in significant soloist roles in opera houses throughout Europe and with international symphony orchestras led by the world's leading conductors. Some of her latest solo performances abroad include her role as soloist in Ravel's Sheherazade with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, soloist in Mahler's Symphony No. 2 with the New York Philharmonic,and soloist in Mahler's Symphony No. 8 with the Berlin Philharmonic.
In addition to her career as a solo vocalist, Paasikivi has acted as the Artistic Director of the Pyhäniemi Manor concert series since 2009.
Lilli Paasikivi has also served as Chair of the FNO Soloist Association since 2008.