The new millennium
The first festival season of the new millennium was celebrated not only with the operatic trilogy The Age of Dreams but also a new rain awning, stage and auditorium. The new seats were considerably more comfortable, and the new awning was more watertight and caused less disturbing noise in windy weather.
Savonlinna productions often went on tour abroad, as many as three times in the peak year (2003). The role of the Savonlinna Opera Festival as an exporter of Finnish operatic knowhow has been truly significant: 13 tours in 15 years. The festival has also entered into bilateral agreements with three opera houses.
Jan Hultin took over from Paavo Suokko as General Director of the Savonlinna Opera Festival in 2002 and is still in office. This makes him the longest occupant of the post so far. A move was made to commit regular visitors more closely to the Opera Festival and to this end a festival club, Club Opera, was set up based on members of the Patrons’ Association. This club carries more member benefits than before and arranges activities outside the festival season, too, such as trips abroad.
Jan Hultin and Artistic Director Raimo Sirkiä together masterminded and realised an unequalled set of three brand-new children’s operas. This project won the attention and admiration it deserved from not only the festival’s own audiences but also the directors of international opera houses and the foreign media reps visiting Savonlinna.
A new Finnish opera (Daddy’s Girl) was also composed for the castle stage and leading Finnish operas of the 1900s (Juha, The Horseman) were revived in new productions. All in all there were six Finnish operas in the repertoire during the first decade of the new millennium; this is clearly more than in corresponding earlier periods.
Jari Hämäläinen, as the festival’s new Artistic Director, has given the ensemble a clearly more international bias since summer 2008.
The 2010s – Now
In parallel with the Timo Mustakallio Competition, the Savonlinna Opera Festival set up an International Singing Competition of its own that was first held in summer 2010. There were singers from 16 countries, one Finn, selected for the preliminary rounds in Savonlinna. The jury consisted of international opera directors.
The festival has now introduced a totally novel way of making an opera. For this, a multinational online community called Opera by You was formed that, with a team of professionals appointed by the Opera Festival, is scripting, composing and visualising the world’s first online opera. Called Free Will, this will be premiered in the centenary season of the Savonlinna Opera Festival in 2012.
Free Will, which has a libretto in English, and Kimmo Hakola’s La Fenice, to be sung in Italian and likewise premiered in 2012, reflect the Savonlinna Opera Festival’s present global policy. For all the operas previously world premiered in Olavinlinna Castle were sung in Finnish.
The festival has diversified its product range by offering clients an opportunity to book tailored packages including, say, hotel, meals and activities in addition to opera tickets.