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Award-winning Finnish novel Ice is adapted into an opera

In January 2019 the Finnish National Opera will host the world premiere of a new opera from Finland based on Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s bestselling novel Ice. The novel was awarded the Finlandia prize, Finland’s most prestigious literary award, in 2012. The opera will be composed by Jaakko Kuusisto and the libretto in Finnish will be written by Juhani Koivisto. The director of the production will be Anna Kelo.

The novel Ice was published simultaneously in Swedish and Finnish in 2012. It has so far sold a total of nearly 150 000 copies in the two languages. There has been widespread interest in adapting the novel for the stage, but the National Opera was the first to get Ulla-Lena Lundberg’s blessing.

The story of the opera is about a young pastor and his family who settle on a remote Finnish island. The war is over and supplies are scarce, but life on the island is wonderful and everyone loves the new priest. The inauguration party is held by the glistening sea, but soon the bleak, stormy winter arrives. The priest knows nothing about ice, nor the way it gives in when you least expect.

Jaakko Kuusisto has lived and composed in the outer archipelago of Finland. Having experienced the harsh setting first hand, he says he couldn’t imagine a more appealing task as a composer. “What matters most to me is that the music creates an overriding ambience, describing the beautiful yet merciless sea and ice, which have a tremendous power over us and make us feel so small.”

Season 2017–2018 at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet also presents impressive Finnish world premieres, with both Höstsonaten – Autumn Sonata composed by Sebastian Fagerlund and the ballet spectacle The Land of Kalevala directed by Kenneth Greve in the repertoire.