I finished my summer holidays this year with Tannhäuser at the Savonlinna Opera Festival. It was my first time, not a bad experience as a whole, although the town of Savonlinna isn't particularly attractive, except for its location at Lake Saimaa, and the Olavinlinna Castle, built in 1475 because of the strategic, and incidentally also beautiful, location. There are some nice old wooden houses, otherwise it's a typical Finnish inland town with typical 20th century buildings, not very appealing esthetically. The weather was fine, but I discovered that, for once, I wouldn't have minded company, although I can't imagine what sort of a person would have been acceptable.

As for the opera, it was all right, too, as a whole. The beginning was not so good though. The dancers were somehow listless and imprecise, and I had to agree with the critic Veijo Murtomäki that it's time for Raimo Sirkiä (Tannhäuser) to retire. One could hardly recognise what he was trying to sing. But as he's the Artistic Director of the Festival, he'll probably keep on singing there, even if he retires from the National Opera. Fortunately his performance improved, and the second and third act were quite enjoyable. I had selected this specific evening because of Jorma Hynninen (Wolfram), unfortunately, as far as I'm concerned, he wasn't at his best either. But I was very happy with Kirsi Tiihonen (Venus/Elisabeth), and the choir. Although it's not fair that I, who can't sing even children's songs, criticise singers.

Heard in the audience:

"Every year they warn it might get chilly in the evening, and it never does."

"The hats were a hoot", said an American, and I had to agree.