To celebrate the 150-year jubilee of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), five top Finnish artists – Kristian Attila, piano; Pia Freund, soprano; Eeva-Liisa Haimelin, actress; Tommi Hakala, baritone; and Aleksi Lavaste, actor – connect Sibelius’ well-known and treasured compositions for solo voice and piano with readings of letters between the composer and Aino, his wife, that detail the couple’s mutual affection and a cross-section of domestic and political life.

Originally premiered in Espoo, Finland, February 2015, this staging is adapted and directed by Hilkka-LiisaIivanainen and performed in Swedish and Finnish, with English translations of the original texts.

About The Artists

About Kristian Attila

Kristian Attila is one of the foremost Finnish pianist and coaches working in the field of vocal music. He studied at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and at the Malmö Musikhögskolan in Sweden, graduating in 1998. From 1993-94 he studied at the Opera Studio of the Finnish National Opera.

He has frequently performed as an official pianist in several national and international singing competitions and acted as a jury member in the International Sibelius Singing Competition (2007). Attilahas served as a vocal coach on the vocal faculty of the Sibelius Academy since 1997 and has worked for the Savonlinna Opera Festival, Savonlinna Music Academy, and the Finnish National Opera.

He has performed in a number of European countries, North Africa, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. and with several distinguished singers, including soprano Pia Freund, baritone Tommi Hakala, baritone Jorma Hynninen, and bass baritone Juha Uusitalo.

About Pia Freund

Finnish soprano Pia Freund studied voice at the Sibelius Academy and has studied further with Professor Dorothy Irving in Sweden, among others. Her repertoire ranges from the Baroque to the contemporary. She is renowned for interpreting Kaija Saariaho’s vocal music, both in recital and orchestral performances, as well as on opera stages.

Freund has appeared as a guest at NorrlandsOperan and in the Theater Dortmund, at several international festivals, including the Rheingau Musik Festival, Les Arcs Music Festival, and The Prague Spring International Music Festival, among others. In Finland she appears regularly as a guest with the Finnish National Opera and at the Helsinki Festival, the Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, the Naantali Music Festival, and the Time of Music Contemporary Music Festival in Viitasaari.

She has performed as a soloist with the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble, Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra, Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and Orchestre national d’Île-de-France, in addition to various Finnish orchestras.

Freund is the winner of Lappeenranta National Song Contest (1992), Mustakallio Song Contest (1991), and Kangasniemi Song Contest (1991). She has also received the Arts Council of Häme Art Award and Sibelius Medal of the Sibelius Society of Hämeenlinna.

About Eeva-Liisa Haimelin

Eeva-Liisa Haimelin is a Finnish actress. Having appeared in over 30 different roles in film and television productions, she is known for her roles and performances in Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba (1991), The Man Without a Past/Mies vailla menneisyyttä (directed by Aki Kaurismäki, Finland, 2002), Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (2004), and Panu Rajala’s Sylvi and Anita/Sylvi ja Anita (2012), among others.

Haimelin studied at the Theatre Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki (1962-65) and has performed with the Kotka City Theatre (1962-65) and the Helsinki City Theatre (1968-2011).


About Tommi Hakala

Tommi Hakala is a Finnish operatic baritone and winner of the 2003 BBC Singer of the World Competition in Cardiff. Hakala received the first Matti Salminen Grant in 1997 and graduated from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki with distinction in 1998; in 2001 he was awarded First Prize at the National Merikanto Singing Competition. From 1998-2001 Hakala performed numerous leading roles in the ensemble of the Nuremberg Opera. His years with the Leipzig Opera (2001-04) won him increasing renown and during the engagement in the Finnish National Opera (2008-13) he expanded his repertoire to roles including Amfortas, Kurwenal, Escamillo, Onegin, and Renato. Guest engagements include performances with the Metropolitan Opera, New York, Staatsoper Dresden, Strasbourg, De Vlaamse Opera, Teatro Real Madrid, Savonlinna Opera Festival, De nederlandse Opera Amsterdam, Montpellier, Geneva, and Teatro Regio di Torino, among others. Hakala has given concerts in many European cities as well as in the U.S. His recent engagements include performances in Essen, Germany, with the Finnish National Opera, Teatro Regio di Torino, and at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in Finland.

About Hilkka-Liisa Iivanainen

Born and raised in Finland, director Hilkka-Liisa Iivanainen holds a B.F.A in Performance and an M.A. in Directing. She has worked with many theaters in Finland and abroad, including Plasticene Physical Theater Company, 500 Clown, A Red Orchid Theater, and the renowned Second City Theater. Her productions have appeared at DramaFest Mexico City, the Tampere Theater Festival, The Outlaws Festival, and the New Baltic Drama Festival. Iivanainen has also worked as a Director-in-Residence for the Kotka City Theater. Iivanainen is a passionate director of new performance and contemporary drama and has a strong committment for internatioanl co-opeartion. She has directed plays by Caryl Churchill and Zinnie Harris (U.K.), Martin Algus (Estonia), and Tuomas Timonen and Emilia Pöyhönen (Finland). Iivanainen has also created new adaptations of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She is currently working on Elfriede Jelinek’s contemporary play Rechnitz and a stage adaptation of Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. Iivanainen enjoys working with pop and classical music, opera, and contemporary dance.

She has also directed several radio-plays for Finnish National Broadcasting Company and original independent films. Iivanainen is the proud recipient of the 2015 Artist Grant for Theatre from the Finnish National Council for Theatre. She is also the recipient of a Fulbright Undergraduate Scholarship (1999- 2000) and a Finlandia Foundation grant.

About Aleksi Lavaste

Aleksi Lavaste is a Finnish actor. He received his M.A. in Acting from the University of Tampere in 2011; from 2012-14 he participated in a two-year Nordic Training Program in Dramaturgy and Leadership for Actors and Directors of Theater at the Gestalt Institute of Scandinavia in Denmark. Lavaste has appeared as an actor with the Rauma City Theater (2004-06) and the Kotka City Theatre (2011-14), among others. He is the recipient of the 2014 Kone Foundation Grant and serves as a member of Board of Directors of The Finnish Actors Union.



Photo Credit – National Board of Antiquities, Finland

MON – 10-22-2015 – 8:00 PM
$25 ($20 ASF Members)