Opera opens with scandalous Italian director – controversy over coronavirus restrictions thundered behind the scenes

Great emotions reign in the National Opera. The season opens with a piece about love, passion and revenge. However, the drama is present not only on stage, but also behind the scenes. Yesterday the opera was hit by an unexpected check initiated by the regional authorities of Southern Finland.

Cavalleria Rusticana & Pajatso will premiere tonight, the same day the new, stricter coronavirus restrictions of the Southern Finland Regional Authorities (avi) came into effect. According to tradition, the operas “Rural Honor” and “Pagliacci” ( Cavalleria Rusticana & Pajatso ) are performed on the same evening one after another.

The National Opera opens the season with a piece centered on love, jealousy and revenge.

Direction, production, costumes and lighting are rented from Royal Theater, Covent Garden (ROH). In London, the performance took place six years ago under the direction of the Italian, renowned, but also controversial, and controversial director Damiano Micheletto .

Countryside Honor Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci by Ruggiero Leoncavallo are two one-act operas that are often performed together. Both works were written in the 1890s and sound like they were written by the same composer.

The works tell the story of a passionate love triangle that leads to revenge and murder. They seem to be created for joint performance. Director Micheletto put the heroes of two operas in the same village and intertwined the storylines.

The play became a hit in London in 2015. He received critical acclaim and the director received the prestigious Olivier Award. Later the performance was shown in Barcelona, ​​Brussels and Gothenburg. Now it was Helsinki’s turn.

Too much violence

Mikieletto, however, faced difficulties. Six years ago, his production of “Wilhelm Tell” caused a scandal. At the premiere, viewers booed the nude and rape scene.

Opera Director Kasper Holten defended the director and refused to censor the scene. According to Holten, she showed the brutal reality of war and was supposed to cause discomfort.

During his visit to Finland, Holten emphasized in an interview with Yle that one should not be lazy at work and always stage the same and according to tradition.

– I do not believe that opera is beautiful. She can be beautiful, but also frightening, shocking and deep. First of all, she must be honest, – Kasper Holten said in 2016.

On on stage the truth of life without embellishment

This kind of honesty is the starting point for Cavalleria Rusticana & Pajatso in Helsinki. The production represents the operatic direction “verism”. This style is based on unadorned everyday life and the creation of real life on stage.

Assistant Director of the National Opera Kim Amberla says that during rehearsals, we thought a lot about what the characters are thinking and what they are. motives. Why do they do what they do.

– Micieletto has a theater education and gives singers a lot of freedom. He assumes that everything on stage must be absolutely truthful and the character must live to the fullest. possible.

Rental gives the opportunity to show more premieres

Cavalleria Rusticana & Pajatso at the Finnish National Opera is a so-called “rental production”. His direction and concept, including set and costumes, were rented. The artistic director of the opera Lilli Paasikivi assesses this practice as economically, logistically and artistically sound.

– Opera houses are increasingly joining forces. The life cycle of the works increases many times over, and the productions after the premiere are not stored, but sent on tour.

According to Paasikivi, the rental gives the National Opera the opportunity to show more premieres.

– We have an average of four opera premieres a year, but our production and costume workshops can only produce two major productions on the main stage.

The piece was fully rehearsed at the beginning of the year. It was supposed to premiere in March, but coronavirus restrictions have thwarted plans. Now they are trying to try again.

The opera has been closed since November

National Opera previously announced that it did not intend to divide the auditorium into sections, as required by the new, stricter restrictions of the regional authorities of Southern Finland (avi).

The opera expected rapid changes in restrictions from avi. The changes were also promised by Culture Minister Antti Kurvinen (“Center”) on Thursday, when he announced on Twitter that the requirement for a safe distance of two meters and dividing the public into groups would be removed.

On Thursday, regional authorities received new instructions from the Ministry of Social Health and tweeted that they could not immediately comment on what action they would take in relation to them. Prior to that, on Wednesday, avi announced that they would not make any changes to their recommendations this week.

The opera previously said it would maintain a two-meter safety distance and require viewers to wear masks. Only a little less than 300 spectators will be allowed into the 1300-seat auditorium. The opera says it is impossible to organize the sections necessary for the auditorium, with their own entrances, aisles and toilets.

However, on Thursday evening, the opera unexpectedly informed STT news agency that the Helsinki city supervisor had checked security measures. According to Helsingin Sanomat, the service concluded that the measures were in accordance with the regulations and the requirement to divide the audience into groups was met. The preliminary check was initiated by the regional authorities of Southern Finland (avi).

The National Opera has remained closed to the public since November last year due to coronavirus restrictions. For nine months, the theater rehearsed works, postponed premieres and waited for the audience.

– We cannot survive as an art institution, simply rehearsing without contact with the public. It was a paralyzing and traumatic time. It is very important that large organizations and free groups can do the work for which we exist, says Paasikivi.

Kim Amberla supports the artistic director.

– Everyone is full of enthusiasm and energy, finally there will be an opportunity to perform in front of the public. People have been waiting for this for so long. The artist exists only in the presence of his audience.