To continue my "opera reviews," Tuesday last week I saw an old Finnish opera for a change, Juha by Aarre Merikanto (1922), based on a novel by Juhani Aho written in 1911, the year Finnish National Opera was founded. The novel is a classic that one can't help knowing even if one hasn't so much as seen a film version of it like me - to confess my lack of education.

As usual today, the setting is contemporary. Juha's farm is a forgotten petrol station that has seen better days, and Shemeikka's home an urban night club / brothel. The latter almost inevitably follows from the novel.

I disagree about most in Hannu-Ilari Lampila's review in the liberal Helsingin Sanomat. If there is anything that is in disharmony in this performance it's not the music and the sex show, but the text and the staging: it was amusing to hear sung that Juha is skiing from house to house, with skyscrapers looming in the background. Risto Nordell writes in the Helsinki Lutheran parishes' paper much more positively, and in agreement with me, about this version of Juha by Anna Kelo.

What was interesting in the whole was the psychology and drama. That it all happens in a rural environment - as in the novel and the old films - alienates me. For me this new version is totally credible and moving. If there was anything shocking, it was the psychological insights.

The singers, Jaakko Kortekangs, Camilla Nylund, Jyrki Anttila and others were also excellent. Jyrki Anttila, of course, is a brilliant - if predictable - choice for Shemeikka the seducer.

Another confession: I've never knowingly heard anything composed by Aarre Merikanto before - maybe his modernist reputation has put me off. Thus the music was a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to hearing more of it.


This autumn has been busy and stressful, and I've hardly had time or energy for anything except duties. And so, even writing this little bit has taken me a week.