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8 May 2013

Eight premieres at the Finnish National Opera in the 2013–2014 season

Lilli Paasikivi becomes Artistic Director of the Opera and Michael Güttler becomes Principal Conductor

The 2013-2014 season at the Finnish National Opera will feature four opera and four ballet premieres.

Changes are forthcoming in the artistic management, as the term of Mikko Franck as Artistic Director of the Opera and General Music Director expires at the end of July. At the beginning of August, mezzosoprano Lilli Paasikivi will be taking up the position of Artistic Director of the Opera and German conductor Michael Güttler will become Principal Conductor. Previously a guest conductor at the Mariinsky Theatre, Güttler has a three-year agreement with the FNO with an option for a two-year extension.

Karita Mattila and the leading ladies of Janáček

The first new production of the autumn will be Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti, one of the masterpieces of comic opera. The marital complications of ageing bachelor Don Pasquale will be set in cinematic 1950s Italy in the production directed by Tuomas Parkkinen, with sets by Hannu Lindholm.

In January, Karita Mattila will return to the FNO to continue her series of compelling interpretations of women in the operas of Leoš Janáček with the title role in Jenůfa. This production directed by Olivier Tambosi comes to the FNO from the Hamburg State Opera.

The second premiere of the spring will be Puccini's La Bohème. Director Katariina Lahti and set designer Mark Väisänen, who recently collaborated on the realistic production of Puccini's Il tabarro, will be contributing an impressive and authentic portrayal of young artists in Paris.

A production featuring two popular 20th-century chamber operas will be staged in Almi Hall: The Bear by William Walton, based on a play by Chekhov, and La voix humaine by Francis Poulenc. This double-bill production will later tour nationwide.

One of the most eagerly awaited revivals next season will be Korngold's Die tote Stadt. On its previous run, performances were sold out thanks to the brilliant cast and the directing of Kasper Holten. Camilla Nylund and Klaus Florian Vogt will again be appearing in the production. Other operas in the repertoire during the season will be Bizet's Carmen, Rossini's La Cenerentola, Mozart's The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni, Verdi's Don Carlos, Puccini's Turandot and Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier in a production directed by Marco Arturi Marelli.

A Finnish dance classic and a new ballet for the whole family

The autumn of the Finnish National Ballet will open with Seitsemän veljestä (Seven brothers), a ballet adaptation of the landmark Finnish novel by Aleksis Kivi. Created by Marjo Kuusela to music by Eero Ojanen, this ballet was highly successful in Finland and on tour abroad in the 1980s. It now returns with an updated staging.

The following premiere will be Deca Dance Helsinki by Ohad Naharin. Naharin's collaboration with the FNB has continued for 18 years. This work combines elements from old and new choreographies.

The Finnish premiere of the season will be Beauty and the Beast. Choreographer Javier Torres has created a ballet for the whole family based on the familiar fairy tale, to music by Ottorino Respighi. The costume designer is Erika Turunen.

Peer Gynt, a production that comes from the Zurich Ballet, will be premiered in April. Created by distinguished choreographer Heinz Spoerli, the production combines the famous incidental music by Edvard Grieg with newer music by Brett Dean and Mark-Anthony Turnage.

The FNO collaborates with other Finnish dance companies too. The Carl Knif Company and Pieni Suomalainen Balettiseurue (Small Finnish Ballet Company) will be appearing at the Dance United evening in Almi Hall in September. Members of the FNB will participate in the performances of both companies.

Returning to the repertoire are the audience favourites The Snow Queen, Sleeping Beauty and Bella Figura, the latter a triple bill named after the work by Jiří Kylián and also including In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe and The Four Temperaments by George Balanchine. The Snow Queen, the hugely successful production created by FNB Artistic Director Kenneth Greve that was completely sold out in the current season, will return with no fewer than 18 performances.

Orchestra celebrates 50th anniversary

The FNO and FNB celebrated their anniversaries in 2011 and 2012, respectively. The Orchestra of the FNO is now celebrating its 50th anniversary; it began life as a separate entity on 12 August 1963 and played a crucial role in the development of the FNO and the subsequent Finnish opera boom. The anniversary concert of the Orchestra will feature a concert performance of the rarely-performed opera Daphne by Richard Strauss, with visualisation. The concert will be held at the Helsinki Music Centre in collaboration with the Helsinki Festival on 17 August. The title role will be taken by Soile Isokoski.

In November, there will be a performance of Brahms's monumental Ein deutsches Requiem, conducted by the new Chief Conductor Michael Güttler. The season will also include a Christmas carol tour, a tango concert and a concert held with young musicians from music institutes.

For kids, for teens and for other special interest groups

The programme for the season will include several opera and dance productions aimed at children and young audiences, performed not only at the Opera House but all around the country too. Children's art workshops introducing children to opera and ballet will be joined by workshops for infants. Singers, dancers and orchestra musicians of the FNO will be continuing their visits to institutions caring for the elderly and the chronically ill in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and neighbouring municipalities.

The school opera Hölmöläiset (The dummies) by Jukka Linkola will be premiered in May and then performed by a total of 22 5th-grade and 6th-grade classes in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and elsewhere in Finland. The FNO has been producing school operas for 13 years, giving more than 12,000 pupils around the country hands-on experience in producing an opera.

Hear This, I'm a composer! is a project already under way, with children and adolescents writing their own music under the tuition of professionals. The other partners in the project are the Sibelius Academy, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Helsinki Music Centre and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Glimpse of the future: joint production of Elektra

The FNO is participating in a joint production of Richard Strauss's opera Elektra with the Aix-en-Provence Festival, La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona and the Berlin State Opera. The premiere of this new joint production will take place in Aix-en-Provence under Esa-Pekka Salonen on 10 July 2013, and the Finnish premiere is scheduled for autumn 2016. The production is being directed by Patrice Chéreau, with sets by Richard Peduzzi, costumes by Caroline de Vivaise and lighting by Dominique Bruguière.

Spring 2013 concludes with Tristan und Isolde

This year's spring season will conclude with Tristan und Isolde, previously performed at the FNO 40 years ago. The premiere will be on 17 May 2013. Director Elisabeth Linton and conductor Pinchas Steinberg are working with a world-class cast, including Robert Dean Smith, one of the best-known Tristans, and Marion Amman as Isolde. Matti Salminen's performance as King Marke has been acclaimed at Bayreuth and the Metropolitan; this will be the first time he has performed the role at the FNO. The other cast members include Lilli Paasikivi as Brangäne and Tommi Hakala as Kurwenal.