Reflecting and writing. Ensemble 2015. Photo: Liisamaija Hautsalo
I am honoured to teach courses and supervise students in the vocal department and the International Opera Programme at the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki. Each student cohort is small, allowing for prolonged, intensive engagements with students enrolled in the 2.5 year opera programme. Classes or ensembles, as we call them, consist of 5-8 individuals who are predominantly opera vocal majors, but also include répétiteurs (korrepetiitori). Each ensemble stages five major productions over the course of their degree, usually including a Mozart opera and often contemporary works or even world premieres. At present, I am the responsible coordinator and teacher of three courses: 'Introduction to Operatic works and Programme texts'; 'Literature and Culture for Singers'; and 'The History of Finnish Opera'.
As part of the course Introduction to Operatic Works and Programme Texts I encourage a variety of working methods, including reading, writing, and discussion, involving individual, pair, and group work. Students develop writing skills in different styles, as well as critical literacy skills to evaluate and engage with different sources. The course also guides students to construct and maintain their curriculum vitae, as professionals working in the field.
Later in this course, students engage in analyses of their characters of their productions, considering their identities, their relationships with other characters, the context and the social-historical background of the opera. Beyond this, students also conduct musical analyses of opera music, discussing dramatic situations and motivations as well as the musical structures that are typical for opera. In other words, opera is always approached as a unique artform. To encourage creative and divergent thinking, students also write counterfactual narratives, imagining ‘what if’ for various opera characters and plots. This is serious work, but it is also fun!
I integrate my research interests and knowledge in each of the courses I am responsible for, and share my own research findings with students whenever possible. For instance, in the course, The History of Finnish Opera, we have discussed locality versus globality and apply these concepts the context of Finnish opera. We have also analysed a number of topics in our operatic oeuvre and defined the most significant themes on the basis of my previous research publications. Interestingly, this has also been the course for which I have received the most positive feedback from students. For example, I have received comments such as “I just loved your course!”, “The best course ever”.
I just love my job!
Ensemble 2015 and some Scandinavian students discussing and doing pair work on Bemjamin Britten’sMidsummer Night Dream in Kallio-Kuninkala in February 2018.
Photo: Liisamaija Hautsalo
Watching and reflecting upon opera videos. Photo: Liisamaija Hautsalo