Songs inspired by the Finnish landscape
Aino Konkka, Mezzo-soprano and Richard Black, piano
Sunday 21 June, 3pm
33 Albion Street
London SE16 7HZ
nearest station: Rotherhithe Overground Station (2 mins)
Music by Jean Sibelius, Selim Palmgren, Aarre Merikanto and Toivo Kuula
Midsummer is a magical time in Finland. Cities empty out and people retire to celebrations by the sea and the lakes. The day is at its longest, bonfires are lit and traditionally this is a time of magic spells to bring love and a good marriage. Midsummer brings to mind pictures of Finnish lakes and white nights, and echoes from the forests and the waterside. Join us to celebrate the longest day of the year with romantic songs and piano music from Finland.
The Finnish nature was a great source of inspiration to Finland’s greatest composer, Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). To celebrate his 150-year anniversary, we will perform some of his best loved miniature masterpieces.
Selim Palmgren (1878-1951) was a brilliant pianist and piano composer and was considered during his lifetime the most internationally significant Finnish composer after Sibelius. Sadly his works are less frequently performed today – but we have some gems to present.
Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958) created a unique modernist style in the 1920s, but after his opera Juha was silenced to death during his lifetime, he returned to a more traditional style of writing. We have picked songs to echo the forest and its magical creatures.
Toivo Kuula (1883-1918) wrote some of the most memorable Finnish solo songs, capturing the magic of the forest in his songs about nymphs and shepherds, and the melancholy brought by the shortness of the Finnish summer.
The poets of these texts include some of the most significant Finnish writers such as our national poet J. L. Runeberg.
Please join us for a rare chance to hear these songs on a special day of the Finnish calendar – the Midsummer.
The Finnish Church will be open from 10am to 8pm – there is a café and a kiosk full of Finnish goodies such as rye bread to take home. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try Finnish sauna for £6.00 (women’s shift 4.30-5.30pm, men’s shift 5.30-6.30pm on a Sunday).
Entry for the concert is free but there will be a voluntary retiring collection.
Longborough Festival Opera's circus-set production of Rinaldo closed yesterday to a very warm reception in a full house at Longborough. It was a short run with only four shows altogether - opening at the Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham, London, then moving to the atmospheric (and thankfully refreshingly cool!) St Mary in the Castle in Hastings, finishing off in the country house glamour of Longborough Festival Opera. Here is the Guardian review. Thanks to everyone who made it such a lovely production to be a part of!
In October last year I took part in a six-day research & development workshop on Alcina with Barefoot Opera. This project has been in development since 2011 - we started with workshopping Handel's music in March 2011 for two weekends, resulting in an informal performance, which was then snapped up for development with the Grimeborn Festival - with composer Peter Foggitt joining to develop new music based on Handel's originals.
August 2011 saw us working intensively for a week in the upstairs studio of Arcola Theatre in Dalston - the props and set consisting of a bag of sand, some cardboard boxes and a piece of old rope - negotiating tricky physical moves with Peter's wonderful but challenging new music. We somehow pulled it together and the result was a performance about an hour long, story getting as far as the end of Act II. Playing Bradamante, I shared one of the opera's most famous arias, "Verdi prati", as a duet with Ruggiero.
The rehearsals were documented by filmmaker Nichola Bruce, and after the two performances at Grimeborn, we carried on working with the material and filmed in Hastings. Nichola is currently in post-production for her film Alcina - Pale Shadows. The trailer can be watched here.
The idea of Barefoot Opera is to produce shows which can be easily transported so the instrumentation was somewhat unorthodox, consisting of accordion, clarinet and recorders. More recently the trio has replaced the recorder with cello, bringing a welcome addition of a string instrument to the mix.
The work has also included vocal improvisation from the very beginning. In spring 2012 two short performances were entirely based on vocal improvisation, first at WorkIn Process 4 Cross-platform at St Paul's Church Covent Garden. This was a version of "Verdi prati" with flashlights, suitcases and the trusty old rope, and received very favourable feedback from the audience. Here the company also found the cellist for the instrumental mix - Sophie Rivlin. The second completely vocal performance was at Nunhead Cemetery Open Day in May 2012 at the incredibly atmospheric, octagonal roofless chapel with magnificent acoustics.
The cast of Alcina has changed along the way several times, but all performers embrace the openmindedness required to make a safe, non-judgmental environment for improvisation. I believe my Bradamante is the only character who has been present at each performance since 2011, including the mini-performances at St Paul's and Nunhead, and the only other singer who has been there from the very beginning is Penelope Randall-Davis, a wonderful Queen of the Night and an inspirational vocal teacher, playing Alcina herself.
Here is Nichola Bruce's video from the latest workshop of Alcina, Act III, shot at the Barefoot Studio in Brockley in October 2013.
Here can be found more info on Barefoot Opera.
Hampstead Garden Opera's production of Jonathan Dove's and Alasdair Middleton's Mansfield Park (based on Jane Austen's novel and apparently the only Austen opera adaptation ever produced) opened Friday 19th April at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village to a full house. Aino plays the part of Lady Bertram. The run is nearly sold out already so hurry to snatch up the last tickets! http://www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com/
Here are some early reviews: