The festival, which starts on Friday, features a wide variety of performances and art forms. This year audiences in Helsinki will be able to enjoy some of the world’s leading contemporary circus acts, as well as the usual offerings including music, theatre, dance, exhibitions, film and children’s programmes.
The first weekend opens big, as Richard Wagner’s massive opera Tristan and Isolde takes over Helsinki’s new Music Centre on Saturday evening. The internationally acclaimed reworking of the classic opera, which was first performed in Los Angeles in 2004, is conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by Peter Sellars.
The “total artwork” – a unity of music, drama, text, design, and visuals – conceived by Wagner in the 19th century acquires fresh meaning in the ground-breaking multimedia production that expands beyond the stage into the entire concert hall. Drawing on possibilities afforded by set design and media art, the opera features visuals from American video art pioneer Bill Viola projected on a 10-metre screen.
Midway through the festival audiences are treated to Leipzig’s Gewandhaus orchestra, another classical music highlight.
Popular music, circus and street carnival
Following well-established festival tradition, the Huvila Festival Tent designed by architect Roy Mänttäri is once again pitched by Töölönlahti bay. The tent’s programme ranges from world music and jazz to rock and pop, representing artists from Finland and all over the globe.
The festival draws to a close at the start of September with performances from one of the leading groups of contemporary circus, Cirque Eloize. The Canadian circus group is premiering its eight international production in Helsinki, after which it will continue touring the world for several years.
Usually drawing between 80,000 and 100,000 people, The Night of the Arts is celebrated the coming Thursday. Turning the whole city centre into a colourful art boutique, the Night of the Arts features over 200 single events staged in galleries, museums, schools, libraries and on the street, among other venues.
One of the highlights of the arts night is the large scale city happening “Dominoes”, in which a four-kilometre chain of giant concrete dominoes will tumble from Observatory Hill to the Senate Square.