On as international scale, Finnish opera is extremely prolific. This research project explores Finnish opera in the context of the core value of Finnish society, equality. Drawing on political history, sociology, anthropology, art research and opera studies, this study suggests that the vigour of Finnish opera is based on two factors: the Finnish version of European nationalism since 1870s, and the cultural politics of the Finnish welfare society. The central assumption of this study is that the principle of equality associates with opera is unique to Finland and impacts for instance in dramatis personae, topics, sites and geographic location(s), audiences, composer, singing style, and funding. This study suggests that in Finland practices of equality and through expanding the very concept of ‘opera’ the art form is socially and culturally legitimized as contrast to the European classic-romantic tradition. In Finland, opera is more than simply a form of high culture for the elite.
Unlike in most European countries, in Finland, opera become established only in the early twentieth century being inspired by the
National Romantic movement rather than image building within a court culture. After the Second World War, the Finnish opera started to flourish, and in 1975 began, according to Heiniö's research, the Finnish Opera Boom. The unique role that opera started to play in the Finnish culture is seen in the volume of contemporary operas: in the year 2000, Finnish opera reached a peak of 16 new works by Finnish composers.
The study Articulations of Identity in Finnish Opera aims to identify the shaping forces, cultural, social, and economical, in the
development of Finnish opera. The study argues that the articulations of Finnishness no more manifest a unified view of Finnishness but rather show parallel, complex and multiple representations of Finnishness.
I have been interested in Kaija Saariaho’s music already for decades, and in particular her work for human voice. My doctoral thesis discussed her first opera, L’amour de loin (2000) applying the theory of musical semantics. In addition, I have explored also her second opera, Adriana Mater (2006), as well as Émilie (2010) and Only the Sound Remains (2016) (see the publication below).
My work on Saariaho’s music includes also non-academic publications, such as programme book texts for i.e. The Finnish National Opera and Opéra national de Paris as well as several festivals in Finland and abroad (see my publications). I also wrote the introduction of L’amour de loin production for the awarded The Deutsche Grammophon DVD (2006). Several newspapers and musical magazines have published my texts on Saariaho’s music, too.
There is also a book project on Saariaho’s music going on. I will co-edit it with professor Kai Lassfolk from the University of Helsinki, Finland. The book will be an international peer-reviewed anthology in English. The contributors are among the most prominent Saariaho-scholars in Finland and abroad. The book project has already been funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation and Wihuri Foundation.
Photo © AJ Savolainen