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Autumn Sonata

The contrast between Sebastian Fagerlund’s opera and the film, in which the only music was diegetic – played by the characters themselves – is therefore considerable. But with a wealth of nuance and a striking sound, Fagerlund recreates the film in music. The Swedish-Finnish soloist ensemble with Anne Sofie von Otter in the leading role has gained considerable acclaim for their demanding and complex role creation, and the Finnish National Opera brings their acclaimed original production from Helsinki to the Baltic Sea Festival.

“If I had to choose between losing my sight or my hearing, I would keep my hearing”, said Ingmar Bergman. In spite of the lack of background music, music is still at the heart of the film, Autumn Sonata, which was Ingmar’s as well as Ingrid Bergman’s final film. Ingrid plays Charlotte, a famous pianist who invested in her successful career at the expense of her relationship with her daughters. When she visits her two grown-up children at the farm where they live, old wounds are torn open and deeply buried secrets are unearthed.

Bergman himself was never really happy with the film. He felt that he was unable to achieve his vision, that he could not “delve as deeply” as he would have needed to portray the characters. Finnish librettist Gunilla Hemming said in an interview that she, being both a daughter and a mother, developed strong feelings for the theme from the very moment she saw the film as a young woman. And she does not understand Bergman’s dissatisfaction and implies that maybe he delved more deeply into himself than he was prepared to admit in creating the proud and attention-seeking character of Charlotte.

Finland-Swedish composer Sebastian Fagerlund has been called a post-modern impressionist who is not afraid to mix western and oriental influences with romanticism or, for that matter, hard rock. He has previously written a chamber opera about General Georg Carl von Döbeln which, like this one, contains dreamlike elements. In the Autumn Sonata, it is Charlotte’s inner voices, a concert audience that follow and haunt her, which reinforce both her voice and those of the other characters. Charlotte is prevented from leaving the cold, merciless limelight, even as the world is falling apart around her as well as within her.

Ingmar Bergman’s centenary is celebrated throughout the year. This magnificent and critically acclaimed reinterpretation of Bergman’s final creation is in many ways a tribute to the internationally renowned director and author who was one of Sweden’s most significant artists of all time. The opera premièred in Helsinki in September last year and the entire cast is now coming to Berwaldhallen. Anne Sofie von Otter, who plays Charlotte, said in an interview that, like Bergman, Sebastian Fagerlund knows how to balance melancholy with bright and beautiful moments: “The story is very vicious and tragic, even terrifying. But it cannot be exclusively tragic, and there are other colours there as well.” Throughout the plot, love is a consistent theme, as is longing and the struggle for understanding – and forgiveness.


Participants

 

The Finnish National Opera and Ballet is one of the country’s foremost cultural institutions, dating back to the 19th century. They perform new works by composers from around the world, as well as timeless classics from the opera and ballet repertoire. The ensembles also make appearances and broadcast their performances on TV and online. The orchestra of the Finnish National Opera is Finland’s largest orchestra and in addition to their opera and ballet performances, they regularly hold concerts of their own. The National Opera Choir is the country’s only permanently employed professional choir. Since 2016, Esa-Pekka Salonen has been artistic partner to the Finnish National Opera and Ballet where he will conduct the entire Der Ring des Nibelungen by Wagner, commencing in 2019.

From talented pupil to Jorma Panula, by way of assistant to Esa-Pekka Salonen, Finnish-Hungarian conductor Dalia Stasevska has achieved international renown as an acclaimed opera and concert conductor. She studied violin, viola and composition at the Tampere Conservatory and the Sibelius Academy, as well as conducting under Susanna Mälkki and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, among others. Her latest performance was Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen at the Finnish National Opera and Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti at Den Norske Opera, and she has debuted with orchestras such as the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne and the BBC Symphony Orchestra of Wales. In 2009, Stasevska founded the Kamarikesä Festival in Helsinki to encourage other young musicians.

Court Singer Anne Sofie von Otter performs across the globe in celebrated productions of operas such as Giulio Cesare in Egitto by Handel, Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande and Kurt Weill’s Mahagonny, as well as in innovative collaborations with artists such as Elvis Costello, Benny Andersson or the Brooklyn Rider string quartet. The lead role in Sebastian Fagerlund’s acclaimed opera, Autumn Sonata, based on the film by Ingmar Bergman, was written specifically for her. Anne Sofie von Otter has received numerous awards and considerable praise for her recordings on labels like Deutsche Grammophon. She is a four-time Swedish Grammis winner and in 2015, she won a Grammy for best classical album.

Ever since her debut at the Malmö Opera in 2004, in the title role in Puccini’s Turandot, and two years later at the Metropolitan Opera as Lenore in Beethoven’s Fidelio, Swedish-American soprano Erika Sunnegårdh has been praised for her combination of musical intelligence and intrepid, emotionally nuanced, portrayals. Her many distinguished performances include Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in Frankfurt and Wiesbaden as well as Siegfried at the Tokyo Nomori Festival, Elektra by Richard Strauss in Wiesbaden, the title role in Salome in Barcelona, Tokyo and Cologne, as well as the world première of Jonas Forssell’s Döden och flickan (Death and the Maiden) and, most recently, Sebastian Fagerlund’s Autumn Sonata.

Finnish baritone Tommi Hakala has made his name in major operatic works by Wagner, Puccini, Mozart, Verdi and Tchaikovsky. He has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Staatsoper Dresden, De Vlaamse Opera, in Essen, Budapest, Geneva, Copenhagen and at several international festivals. Hakala has worked with such prominent conductors as Leif Segerstam, Susanna Mälkki, Jaap Van Zweden, Simon Rattle and Esa-Pekka Salonen. In the Finnish National Opera’s production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, he debuted as Wotan in The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie, as well as The Wanderer in Siegfried. He has made several recordings with Finnish and international orchestras of both songs, oratorios and symphonic works.

Soprano Helena Juntunen began her career in her native Finland where she won several prestigious awards and had her breakthrough in 2002 as Marguerite in Charles Gounod’s Faust. This was followed up by a string of debuts, amongst them Madam Cortese in Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims and Pamina in The Magic Flute. She appears regularly at the Finnish National Opera where she has performed in world premières such as Juri Reinvere’s Puhdistus and most recently, Sebastian Fagerlund’s Autumn Sonata. She has performed on major stages in Strasbourg, Geneva, Nice, Lyon and Dresden and has given concerts together with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonics, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.

Finnish bass Nicholas Söderlund regularly performs as a concert soloist with large orchestras around Scandinavia and Europe. Since his debut at the Finnish National Opera in 2007, he has played numerous roles there, and has had guest appearances at the Basel Opera in Switzerland and several large music festivals. His many roles include Wagner in Charles Gounod’s Faust, Antonio in The Marriage of Figaro, Frank in Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Sarastro in The Magic Flute and Colline in La bohème by Puccini. Söderlund is particularly passionate about modern Finnish music and has premièred a great deal of music by contemporary Finnish composers.

Programme

Approximate timings

Finnish composer Sebastian Fagerlund has seen great success with his symphonies and solo concertos, as well as with his operas, Döbeln and Autumn Sonata. The orchestral work, Ignite, was awarded the prestigious Finnish Teosto Prize in 2011 and that same year was presented at the International Rostrum of Composers in Vienna. Fagerlund’s music has been performed by such orchestras as the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Radio Filharmonisch Orkest in the Netherlands. During the 2016–17 season, he was Composer in Residence at Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Fagerlund is also the artistic director of the RUSK Chamber Music Festival in Jakobstad.

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