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News - New Production of Sallinen's Kullervo

Thursday, May 29, 2014
On July 4, 2014 a new production of Kullervo by Aulis Sallinen is presented at the renowned Savonlinna Opera Festival in honour of one of Finland’s most important and influential contemporary composers. Kullervo is Aulis Sallinen's fourth opera and was highly acclaimed at its world premiere at the Finnish National Opera in 1992. Based on the national Finnish epic - The Kalevala - it combines music of enormous power, invention and lyricism with accessibility and great audience appeal. This is a great opportunity to see this remarkable opera in the setting of the magical Olavinlinna Castle.


For more information about the new production, visit the Savonlinna Opera Festival website.

The full score is available to view online.

Short synopsis:
Kullervo, the son of Kalervo, is apparently orphaned when Unto sets Kalervo’s house on fire. Unto arranges for Kullervo to be apprenticed to a blacksmith as a herd-boy. Kullervo is provoked into murdering the blacksmith’s wife when the knife he inherited from his father breaks on a stone maliciously baked in his bread. Soon, a friend discovers that Kullervo’s parents are still alive, but the reunion goes awry when the parents realise that their son is a murderer. A blind singer appears in his dream with the grim tale of Kullervo’s seducing a woman, not knowing until afterwards that she is his long-lost sister. Kullervo realises there is no way out, but resolves to commit one final act of revenge by burning Unto’s house. He hopes to find comfort with his friend Kimmo, but when he finds that Kimmo has lost his mind, Kullervo plunges himself into the fire.

Aulis Sallinen Biography:
Aulis Sallinen can be justly regarded as the natural successor to the greatest Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. After early experimentation with serialism, he adopted a clear, diatonic style that often evokes the cold expanse of Finnish landscapes. With a strong sense of national identity, Finnish traditional melodies often appear in Sallinen’s works, and the subject matter of several of his operas draws on the history and folklore of that country, such as The Red Line, set against the backdrop of the first Finnish national election, or Kullervo, based on the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala.

More operas by Aulis Sallinen - please visit our website to view scores and hear audio samples of these remarkable operas.


Sallinen's early opera The Red Line explores the dark side of society on the brink of civilization. Based on the 1911 novel The Red Line by Ilmari Kianto, the opera – like the novel – is set in 1907, a watershed year in Finnish history during which elections were held, leading eventually to Finnish independence in 1917. Topi, a poor crofter, lives with his wife Riika and children in the bleak north Finnish backwoods. They are beset by a marauding bear and oppressed by an indifferent society. Promise of a new life appears. An agitator whips up support for social democracy by telling people that if they draw a red line on a ballot paper, they will be free from oppressed misery. But it does not happen: the children die of malnutrition; the bear returns. Topi gets killed by the bear, his throat slit in a red line.

Click here to view score


King Lear also treads a painful path of self-knowledge - in the end he loses everything but gains truth. With dramatic horror, together Shakespeare and Sallinen set in motion the wheels of disaster.

Click here to view score


In The King Goes Forth to France 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.

Click here to view score


The Palace - The central characters in The Palace are borrowed from Mozart’s Die Entführung, though distanced from the originals somewhat. Subsidiary characters are modelled on various functionaries from the court of Haile Selassie and, although fictitious, the story carries echoes of events from the last days of the Ethiopian Emperor’s court. These sources, however, only provide the base of an original drama that deals with the exercise of authoritarian power. Power not only corrupts – it has a debilitating effect on those who are near its centre. It creates in them a compelling need for escape and for liberty. Yet the result is a ghastly disappointment, for ruthless politics merely transfers power into new hands, where it remains as absolute as before.

Click here to view score

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