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23 Oct 2013

Karita Mattila and Ohad Naharin to visit the Finnish National Opera

Lilli Paasikivi is the new Artistic Director of the Opera, and Michael Güttler is the new Principal Conductor

As of the beginning of August, Lilli Paasikivi is the Artistic Director of the Finnish National Opera, and Michael Güttler is the Principal Conductor. Both are under a three-year agreement with an option for a further two-year term. Mikko Franck was Artistic Director of the Opera and General Music Director until July 2013.

Mezzosoprano Lilli Paasikivi was engaged as a soloist at the FNO from 1998 to 2013. She has also made guest appearances at the Hamburg State Opera, at the Frankfurt Opera, at the Châtelet Theatre in Paris, in Salzburg, in Aix-en-Provence and at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. She has appeared in concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg and Munich Philharmonics. Her calendar for 2013 includes concerts with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, the Konzerthausorchester in Berlin, the Orchestre National de Bordeaux and the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. She will also be appearing as a soloist at three concerts at the FNO.

Born in Germany, Michael Güttler comes to the FNO from the Mariinsky Theatre, where he was a regular guest conductor from 2002 to 2013. He has also conducted opera performances at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the National Opera in Washington DC, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, the Vienna and Hamburg State Operas, the Teatro Real in Madrid, the new National Theatre in Tokyo, the Nice and Frankfurt Operas and the Verona Arena. He will make his first appearance as Principal Conductor of the FNO in a concert featuring Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem on 1 November. His first opera premiere will be Puccini's La Bohème in March. He will also be conducting performances of Puccini's Turandot, Verdi's Don Carlos and Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier during this season.

Karita Mattila's second-last appearance as Jenůfa

Karita Mattila will be returning to the FNO in January with yet another of her powerful portrayals of the strong women in the operas of Leoš Janáček. Jenůfa is one of the most tragic of these. She is made pregnant by one man, another slashes her face with a knife, and her foster mother kills her child. "She is a true survivor," says Karita Mattila, who feels that the brutally realistic story of the opera offers a poignant parallel with today's real world.

Karita Mattila has been appearing in the title role of Jenůfa in several productions since 1998. The production to be seen at the FNO, created by Olivier Tambos for the Hamburg State Opera, is one of the productions she has enjoyed the most: "It is by far my favourite production of this opera! I am happy that with this production of Jenůfa I will have performed all my Janáček roles in front of my faithful home audience. It is also important because I will only be appearing as Jenůfa one more time after this production. Thereafter I will be appearing as Kostelnička in this opera." She will not yet comment on where and when she will make her début as Jenůfa's foster mother.

The sets and costumes for this production were designed by Frank Philipp Schlössmann, and the conductor will be Jakub Hrůša. The roles of Laca Klemeň, Steva Buryja and Kostelnička will be taken by Jorma Silvasti, Jyrki Anttila and Päivi Nisula, respectively. The premiere will be on 24 January, and performances will continue until 27 February.

Star choreographer Ohad Naharin returns to the Finnish National Ballet

World-famous choreographer Ohad Naharin will be returning to the Finnish National Ballet in November, bringing with him a new work entitled Deca Dance Helsinki. This follows on from his best-known work Deca Dance, to which he has added top moments from his earlier works. "I don't think of Deca Dance Helsinki as a new work. It is very fresh, alive, twisted, yet already existing before. What makes it fresh, alive, twisted, is the dancers' interpretation of it," says Naharin.

"I like to tell unfinished stories in a coherent way. I have a big food processor in the studio. In it I put the content and the form, and what comes out is my work. Maybe the glue that holds it all together is me, my limitations, my humour, my movement language and how it is all organized as a whole," says Naharin, who loves contrasts, extremes and surprising choices of music. The soundtrack for Deca Dance Helsinki includes Ravel's Bolero in an arrangement by electronic music composer Isao Tomita and the fusion music of Ali Hassan Kuban, known as the king of Nubian music. The costumes are by Rakefet Levy, and the lighting is by Bambi. The premiere will be on 1 November, and the last performance will be on 20 November.

­Autumn highlights: Die tote Stadt and the hugely popular Snow Queen

Returning to the opera repertoire this autumn are Puccini's Turandot, Rossini's La cenerentola and Kasper Holten's production of Korngold's Die tote Stadt. Soloists for the latter will include the stars of the 2010 premiere, Camilla Nylund and Klaus Florian Vogt. The FNO's production of Die tote Stadt was released on DVD on the Opus Arte label this autumn.

The Snow Queen, a new interpretation by Ballet Director Kenneth Greve of the story by H.C. Andersen, was seen by more than 26,000 visitors last season. For this season, 21 performances have been scheduled between November and January. A recording of the music written by Tuomas Kantelinen for The Snow Queen was published on the Ondine label earlier this year. Kantelinen is Finland's internationally most successful composer of film music, having contributed to more than 30 films, including Puhdistus (Purge) directed by Antti Jokinen, Mindhunters directed by Renny Harlin and Mongol directed by Serge Bodrov.

The Bella Figura triple bill will be returning to the ballet repertoire in January. In addition to the title work by Jiří Kylián, the evening includes In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated by William Forsythe and The Four Temperaments by George Balanchine.

Phantom of the Opera in Finland for the first time in autumn 2015

The FNO will be the first company in Finland to stage one of the most successful musicals of all time, The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The FNO will create its own new production directed by Finnish director Tiina Puumalainen with choreography by Osku Heiskanen. The production will be premiered on the main stage on 4 September 2015, and no fewer than 45 performances have been scheduled through to spring 2016. The Phantom will be performed in the original language, English.

"The FNO is a music theatre company with a wide range of expertise. For a long time we have had a gaping hole in our repertoire where a musical should be, and we are now addressing this imbalance by staging a work whose grand format and context suit our stage excellently. The Phantom of the Opera has elements that we can show to their best advantage," says the new Artistic Director, Lilli Paasikivi.

New Youth Group started at the FNB

The new Youth Group set up at the FNB began operations in September. The Group is being funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation. An evening of young dancers will be held in Almi Hall in May 2014, with a programme featuring works by several choreographers. Members of the Youth Group will also appear in productions of the FNB.

There were 1,200 applicants for the Youth Group, of whom 130 were invited to audition. Ten dancers aged 18 to 22 have been engaged for the Group for a period up to May 2014. Four of these dancers are Finnish. "The Youth Group is an important investment in the future. It will ensure that employment is available for gifted young dancers so that they can develop professionally," says Kenneth Greve, Artistic Director of the FNB.