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Aulis Sallinen

Publisher: Novello & Co

The King Goes Forth to France ('Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan') (1983)
commissioned jointly by the Savonlinna Festival, Finland, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the BBC
Text Writer
Paavo Haavikko, based on his radio play. (Eng. trans. Erkki Arni and Stephen Oliver)
Novello & Co Ltd
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Grand Opera
Year Composed
2 Hours 10 Minutes
English, Finnish, German
Baritone, Bass, 3 Sopranos, Mezzo Soprano, Contralto, Tenor, High Baritone, Spoken Role, Mute Role

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Programme Note
Aulis Sallinen The King Goes Forth to France ('Kuningas lähtee Ranskaan') (1983)

An impending ice age threatens England. The Prince and Prime Minister decide to abandon England and head for France accompanied by four ladies – two Carolines and two Annes – vying for the attention of the future king. In France they are all rejected in favour of a German princess. Nearing Crecy, the site of a famous battle, they realise they are surrounded by various aimless armies. A confused battle begins, but the English forces gain the upper hand. The King forces all to march north to lay siege to Calais. An emissary from Calais requests mercy from the King. The King reveals his three reasons for the war: to conquer Paris, capture and condemn the King of France and march south to meet the new wine. All rejoice on the march to Paris.

Preview the score:

Act II

  • Ensemble
    Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
    Tommi Hakala; Jyrki Korhonen; Riikka Rantanen; Lilli Paasikivi; Mari Palo; Laura Nykänen; Jyrki Anttila; Herman Wallén; Santeri Kinnunen
    Okko Kamu
... conductor Clive Timms produces a powerful account of Sallinen's sometimes arch, sometimes brutal, but never boring score.
Anna Picard, The Independent On Sunday,08/03/2009
Sallinen posssesses a full armoury of operatic skills, which he deploys in a conservative manner that recalls Prokofiev or Shostakovich, and makes regular use of parady.
George Hall, Guardian,06/03/2009
All of which is conveyed in a score of eclectic brilliance. Sallinen can do sardonic Shostakovich, brooding Sibelius, lyrical Rachmaninov, playful Prokofiev and astringent Britten. but he welds all these discernible influences (plus some eerie orchestral effects all his own) into a coherent and colourful language that is an ideal vehicle for drama. Now, please, for new British productions of his even more powerful Kullervo and The Red Line.
Richard Morrison, The Times,06/03/2009
[the] production is as brilliant as one could wish. The Guildhall School's orchestra, conducted by Clive Timms, projects the music with subtlety and panache.
Andrew Clark, The Financial Times,05/03/2009
Aulis Sallinen’s opera, “The King Goes Forth to France”, with its curious mix of operatic convention coupled with almost Monty Python-esque satire, and set to an engagingly lyrical and generous score, gives young singers opportunities to shine, and an orchestra something to really get its teeth into. The work’s fantasy also provides fodder for an inventive production team. This staging is clever and varied and flows seamlessly,...Sallinen’s music is both tuneful and has moments of great sonic beauty; there are many extremely moving passages of string-writing, and some entertaining moments of dance pastiche. The passage with the Burghers of Calais is one such example and here was matched by some witty choreography delivered with some panache by the six singers.
Alexander Campbell,,01/03/2009
He uses apparently common-place tonal materials as the basis for a highly plastic and original orchestral counterpoint…never overburdened and nearly always apt and strongly profiled. Ostinato pedals help precision and tonal clarity…the vocal writing has a quality of its own. Sallinen is intoxicated by the sheer sound of his language: its bouncing tonic accents provoke wonderfully energetic rhythmic patter [and] a genuinely lyrical phraseology which never feels in the least bland or facile.
'The King' is not merely a piece of ephemeral excitement but a work of enduring substance: the richest bloom so far on the sudden, late-flowering phenomenon of Finnish opera.
The Independent,01/01/0001
His idiom is basically tonal, darkly sardonic in a Shostakovich sort of way, and sparely lyrical after the manner of Britten or (every now and then) Puccini. His orchestration glitters in its pungent clarity, he writes gratefully for the voice, and powerfully for the chorus. His music is enormously approachable…strangely haunting [and] unique.
Rodney Milnes, ,01/01/0001
It is one of the liveliest new works I have come across for some while. Sallinen combines a lucid, economical style of impeccable Finnish pedigree…with an instinctive feel for theatrical pacing and a warm response to what sociologists would call the human dimension - the real feeling at the heart of the theatrical artifice. A well-made but self-consciously elaborate text is transformed, under this composer's hands, into a moving story about living individuals.
I find in the music of 'The King' not just the rarest of gifts, the knack of theatre, but something more curious - that ability…to combine the surreal and the popular so that one disconcertingly takes over the other. For such an approachable work, 'The King' has the oddest habit of not being what you thought or expected.
Financial Times,01/01/0001
In Sallinen Finland possesses one of the world's few natively gifted opera creators alive today; the very nature and impact of his third opera bore that out…the unveiling of the new opera…was an event of major importance on the international operatic scene. [It is], in the best way, exciting, disturbing, and continuously surprising…it is music of tremendous sweep, confidence and theatrical vitality…appreciation of the influences in Sallinen's background - Sibelius, Prokofiev, Britten, Shostakovich… - only underlines the distinctness of his own voice…[his] gift for lining the right vocal gesture, for varying texture…, for modulating from speech…into song and pathos into raucous parody, is all his own..[a] significant, surprising, and exhilarating piece."
Max Loppert, ,01/01/0001
It is hard to describe 'The King' - a 'schwarz-Zauberflote' is the best I can do…hard to describe but continuously engaging, at times oddly moving, and often darkly funny…more than ever his voice is utterly individual in its corruscating instrumentation (swirling percussion arabesques), its spareness of texture, its tight counterpoint.
[His] most visionary, subtle and dramatically complex undertaking to date.
Ronald Weitzman, ,01/01/0001
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