The Helsinki Festival starts today


The Helsinki Festival is this year expanding its
programme. Arts from the Baltic Sea region will be very much to the fore. The
Festival presents three leading orchestras, several theatre groups and visual
arts from around the Baltic. There are also more free Festival events on the
programme than in former years. The revamped Night of the Arts caters for a
wider range of tastes than ever. The sculpture exhibition in Esplanadi Park and
the open-air movies in the Lasipalatsi square will all be free. The summer
season at the Huvila Festival Tent ends with a six-hour open-house day
masterminded by Pekka Kuusisto.


T
he Helsinki Festival begins with Kaija Saariaho’s dramatised Passion de
Simone
directed by Peter Sellars (US) at Finlandia Hall. The orchestra will be
conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. New works by Magnus Lindberg, another
contemporary Finnish composer of international repute, will receive their
Finnish premieres in a two-concert cavalcade of chamber and orchestral music
also starring Lindberg as a pianist and conductor.

The visiting orchestras include the Oslo Philharmonic and the Swedish Radio
Symphony; the St. Petersburg Philharmonic will be playing music by Sibelius,
something it rarely does in Helsinki. Appearing at the Festival will be
violinists Lisa Batiashvili, Viktoria Mullova and Christian Tetzlaff, and
pianist András Schiff – all great favourites with Finnish audiences.
Representing the Finnish vocal elite are Monica Groop, Camilla Nylund and Topi
Lehtipuu
, all of whom enjoy a fine international reputation.

The hundred-strong Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra will be playing familiar
tunes from pirate films at the family concert that is always a Children’s
Festival hit. In addition to music, theatre and film the children’s programme
will include an exhibition on the theme of Giotto with numerous workshops and
tie-in events at the Annantalo Arts Centre.

New circus, Chekhov and contemporary European theatre

International circus, theatre and dance are more in evidence at this year’s
Festival than ever before. One of the Festival’s big attractions is Collectif
AOC, a French new circus group that will be erecting a 600-seat tent in
Meripuisto Park near Kaivopuisto. ‘New circus is conspicuous in this year’s
programme,’ says Festival Director Risto Nieminen. ‘Helsinki will also be
acting host to a number of current names in European theatre and dance, such as
dancer-choreographer Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and the enfant terrible
of Spanish theatre Calixto Bieito.’ The Stage festival to be held for the first
time at the Korjaamo Culture Factory has invited along five European theatre
groups.

The four-year Chekhov series culminates this year in three topical interpretations
of works by the Russian master. For the production of The Three Sisters
directed by him Declan Donellan (UK) has formed a cast of leading names in
contemporary Russian theatre. The Von Krahl Theatre from Tallinn is bringing
along a re-reading by Kristian Smeds of The Seagull, while Dmitri Krymov, a hot
name in Russian theatre, will be staging a collage of four Chekhov plays.

New rhythms, nostalgia and mysticism at the Huvila Festival Tent

The packed programme for the Huvila Festival Tent ranges from pop and world
music to poetry and a children’s day. Among the most eagerly-awaited guests
this year are French chanson star Juliette Gréco and blues legend Taj Mahal.

Bringing along a breath of the rich musical tradition of the Middle East will
be the Syrian Ensemble Al-Kindi reinforced with a Sufi singer and a Dervish
dancer, and Turkish Mercan Dede, combining electronic rhythms and Sufi ambience
straight from Istanbul. Ville Leinonen will be inviting dancers to take the
floor at the Huvila Saturday hop. ‘It’s great we were able to get Ayo, an
artist very much on the rise, for the Huvila Festival Tent,’ says Production
Manager Kaarina Gould. ‘In addition to new rising stars and old world music
hands the Huvila profile will take in such hybrid evenings as Lännen Jukka – a
joint gig by J. Karjalainen and one of the leading names in American old time
music, Dirk Powell.

Flow moves to the Suvilahti power station area

The visual arts will be make their presence felt in the city right at the
beginning of May, when the sculpture exhibition Las Meninas by Manolo Valdés of
Spain takes over Esplanadi Park. The series of 21 sculptures can be viewed free
round the clock until the beginning of September. The exhibition of work by
Carnegie award-winning Karin Mamma Andersson from Sweden will be travelling to
the Kunsthalle straight from the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Meanwhile the
Amos Anderson Museum will be putting on an exhibition of oil paintings by Anna
Retulainen
.

On each of its three weekends the Helsinki Festival will be screening movies
free in the Lasipalatsi square. The Orion Cinema will be showing a unique
retrospective of work by Iranian Abbas Kiarostami. The life and works of Andrei
Tarkovsky
will be portrayed through documentaries about him.

The revamped Night of the Arts, shifted this year from Thursday to Friday
(August 24), is an urban event providing a feast for arts lovers all through
the night. Culture vultures will thus be able to revel in events numbering well
over a hundred in new and sometimes unexpected settings scattered round the
city. The enlarged Runokuu will be taking lyrics and literature out into clubs,
churches, public transport and nature trails and strengthening the role of
verbal art in the Festival programme.

The popular Flow festival will be focusing on the hottest contemporary rhythm
music from indie rock and folk to various subgenres of electronic music and
swinging jazz. One new urban venue is the area round the former Suvilahti power
station. As the August evenings draw in jazz fans can look forward to Viapori
Jazz on the island of Suomenlinna and the UMO Jazz Fest.

Helsingin Juhlaviikot – Helsinki Festival 17.8-2.9
www.helsinginjuhlaviikot.fi