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Rautavaara: Aleksis Kivi / Franck/Finnish NO, Hynninen, Reinikainen [DVD]

Album Summary

>Rautavaara, Einojuhani : Aleksis Kivi, opera in 3 acts
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

This opera by iconic composer Einojuhani Rautavaara tells the story of Finland's national author, Aleksis Kivi (1834-1872). Kivi wrote the first significant novel in the Finnish language (Seven Brothers), but during his lifetime he suffered from moral and artistic condemnation by literary rivals. He died, insane and impoverished, at age 38. This Finnish National Opera production is conducted by Mikko Franck, staged by Pekka Milonoff, and stars Jorma Hynninen, at whose request the opera was written. This DVD release pays tribute to Hynninen on the occasion of his 70th birthday. The legendary Finnish baritone reached fame during a new wave of Finnish opera in the 70s, and his performances have played a fundamental part in establishing Finnish contemporary music on the international scene.

American Record Guide
Pekka Milonoff's direction is more clever than consistently effective... Singing is generally excellent... The piece is worth seeing... subtitling is clear; sound is excellent.

Notes & Reviews:

Run Time: 113 min.
Region: All
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, Finnish


Tragic literary figure becomes fascinating opera
Einojuhani Rautavaara has written hundreds of excellent works in all genres, from chamber music to opera. His compositional voice over the past thirty plus years has moved him from the realm of atonality to a sound world wherein orchestral color, tonality, tonal center and a sense of imagery has taken over. He has also become quite renowned and well known outside his native Finland, thanks to some brilliant recordings of his music receiving world wide distribution, such as those put out by Ondine. This new DVD performance of his opera, "Aleksis Kivi", is from its premiere performance run at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, Finland in 1997. The conductor is Mikko Franck, who is well acquainted with Rautavaara's music and has conducted some of his other operas before. In this case, the music is once again the star of the experience, featuring moments of rustic folk elements such as the third act "drinking song" and its sardonic allusion to Kivi's own descent into alcoholism as well as some practically atmospheric beauty. The opening quotations from Aleksis Kivi's own poem "Melancholy" and certainly the closing "Song of my Heart" are beautiful, slowly chromatic in their pacing and - ultimately - sad. The title character was one of Finland's earliest post-Russian authors, writing highly symbolic poetry and novels reflecting the not always pleasant life of the Finnish people and in native Finnish; at a time when many of the country's authorities were trying to redefine the culture; to make it more like Sweden, even if the language and culture of the rural Finns could get lost in the process. The story of Kivi's writings to combat this counter-culture and his near character assassination by the critic August Ahlqvist is one not too known to American audiences but the sadness, the tragedy of watching someone unravel into loss of self confidence and alcoholism is conveyed beautifully by Rautavaara's music and the strong acting of Jorma Hynninen and Ville Rusanen (as the young Alexis) All the singers are also terrific actors. Janne Reinikainen as Ahlkvist (in a non-singing role) conveys smugness, arrogance and a cruel streak as Ahlqvist and Hynninen has become very well known for many of his wonderful performances of Rautavaara's characters. The extra film on the making of "Alexis Kivi" is quite interesting as well, showing discussions with Hynninen, conductor Mikko Franck and Rautavaara - who at this filming seems older and in less health than other video I had seen, unfortunately. The Ondine production values are at their usual best and Rautavaara is truly one of the world's greatest composers and carries a style that has become his own. Strongly recommended!
Submitted on 06/03/11 by Dan Coombs 
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Works Details

>Rautavaara, Einojuhani : Aleksis Kivi, opera in 3 acts
  • Performers: Jorma Hynninen (Baritone); Paulina Linnosaari (Soprano); Riikka Rantanen (Mezzo Soprano); Janne Reinikainen (Voice); Olli Tuovinen (Bass-Baritone)
  • Conductor: Mikko Franck
  • Ensemble: Finnish National Opera Orchestra
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1995-1996