Notes & Reviews:
This DVD Video features the two-act opera The Red Line ("Punainen viiva"; 1976-78) by Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen. This release pays tribute to the composer's 75th anniversary in 2010. Aulis Sallinen started a new wave of Finnish opera in the 1970s. His second opera, The Red Line, played a fundamental part in establishing him - and Finnish opera in general - on the international scene. Reproductions of The Red Line in Moscow, London, and at the Met in New York (1983) led to numerous rave reviews. "Aulis Sallinen's 'Red Line' is the best new opera I have heard in many a year (...) it proved as gripping in its way as Wozzeck orJenufa" -The New York Times.
American Record Guide Notes & Reviews:
there are no weak performances in this cast. Even the slimy Agitator will move you - aided, to be sure, by Sallinen's remarkably effective music...
Run Time: 159 min.
Picture Format: NTSC, 16:9, Color
Sound Format(s): LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: Finnish, English
Fascinating opera now thirty years old speaks to the present
The new Ondine DVD performance of Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen's "The Red Line" is a gripping, disturbing work and brilliantly performed. The Finnish National Opera, conducted by Mikko Franck delivers a solid performance in this dark story of Finland's first Parliamentary election from 1907. Based on the novel of the same name, by native author Ilmari Kianto, the work shows one family's stoic, but sad existence at the time when Finland was first starting to break from Russian rule and also in an election marking the first time women anywhere in Europe were allowed to vote. Kianto is considered something of a revolutionary author in Finland and the opera libretto, also written by Sallinen, after the Kianto original, raises an interesting question: Is the narrative a commentary on pity to be shown for the poor of the Kainuu district or is it a sardonic view of that same poor who may seem so easily deluded into voting for "the left"? In this story, the "leftists" (who cannot be fully trusted, as portrayed) are symbolized by a Bear (the connection to Russia's mascot is probably intentional). The bear terrorizes the small village in which the family of protagonist, Topi Rompannen, resides. As the story and sense of tragedy progresses, the bear hibernates, as in winter; the bear stirs a bit causing town dogs to bark; lastly, the bear awakens and creates havoc. The main character is brilliantly played with a sense of determination but a look a helplessness by the great Finnish baritone, Jorma Hynninen (who may also be seen in performances by countryman, Einouhani Rautavaara) Written in 1978, the work propelled Sallinen into being seen as one of Europe's greatest opera composers, still held true for myself and many others. The music is strong, selectively dissonant and filled with an urgency and lament. The composer uses small motives as well as sections of authentic Finnish folk material as his building blocks. As the story progresses, Topi's wife, Riika (well played by Paivi Nisula) watches as her husband gets caught up in the fervor of the upcoming election and the rhetoric of the Finnish nationalist movement that promises much. Topi seems a somewhat naive father while Riika remains practical, determined, alert but a bit pessimistic. Also well performed is the role of Punterpaa, a socialist agitator.The performance by Aki Alamikkoterva is solid, exuding charm and the "slick" word that raise the unanswered question of Kianto's prose: who is being made fun of? Ultimately, Riika is also taken in and extolls the promise of Socialism even as her own children grow ill from famine. Kaisa (sung by Anna-Lisa Jakobsson), a neighbor provides the continued pragmatism and skepticism that Topi and Riika have apparently lost. The opera's ending is tragic, but not explicit, and leaves the essential question unanswered: Do political promises create unintended victims or are citizens at fault for their naivete and deserve whatever comes of their idealism? Excellent performances abound including the limited but touching children's roles. The FNO orchestra under Franck's direction performs superbly and Sallinen's palate is wide ranging and carries many emotions.
Submitted on 10/19/10 by Dan Coombs