Yle broadcasts premiere of Rautavaara opera – 54 years later

One of Finland's best-known composers, Einojuhani Rautavaara, died last summer at the age of 87, but his first opera finally received its proper premiere this weekend – more than half a century after it was completed. Yle Radio 1 is broadcasting the premiere beginning at 7.45 pm on Saturday evening.

Einojuhani Rautavaara: Kaivos.
Tommi Hakala (left) plays the role of the leader of an ill-fated miners' strike. Image: Péter Rákossy / Unkarin kansallisooppera

Einojuhani Rautavaara wrote Kaivo (The Mine) between 1957 and 1962, and later described it as "perhaps my best opera, a real thriller, whose theme – that people define themselves through their choices – is still and always will be relevant.”

The tragic three-act modernist work was inspired by the Hungarian Revolution of October 23, 1956, and was not properly staged at the time, partly for political reasons. An adapted version was shown on Finnish TV in 1963.

Säveltäjä Einojuhani Rautavaara. Kuva on otettu vuonna 2008.
Rautavaara in 2008. Image: Jyri Valkama / Yle

In 2010, conductor Hannu Lintu revived it in a concert version with the Tampere Philharmonic, which was released as an album.

The work was finally staged as a full opera on Friday, October 21 at the Hungarian State Opera as part of 60th anniversary commemorations of the uprising. It was performed in Finnish, with Finnish baritone Tommi Hakala singing the lead role of Simon, who leads an ill-fated miners' strike.  The other main roles are performed by Hungarian singers including soprano Adrienn Miksch, baritone Béla Laborfalvi Soós, bass Péter Fried and tenor Attila Kiss B.

The work was conducted by Tibor Bogányi, who has frequently worked in Finland, and directed by a Finn, Vilppu Kiljunen.

Yle Radio 1 is broadcasting the premiere beginning at 7.45 pm on Saturday evening. It will be available for streaming for a month via Yle Areena.

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