Savonlinna hits the high notes as Opera Festival begins

Highlights this year include the first ever visit to Finland by the famed La Scala opera company from Italy.

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File picture of Olavinlinna Castle / Credit: Savonlinna Opera Festival

Music lovers are in for a month-long treat as the annual Savonlinna Opera Festival gets underway, set against the dramatic backdrop of an imposing 15th century castle.

It’s one of the cultural highlights of summer in Finland with thousands of people flocking to the eastern town to experience opera under the long light summer nights.

This year the high notes include the first ever staging at Savonlinna of The Barber of Seville, and a visit by the famed La Scala opera company from Italy.

The budget for the festival this year is €8.5 million, of which €2 million is earmarked for the La Scala visit.

Savonlinna’s operatic history 

The first Savonlinna Opera Festival was held in the summer of 1912, spearheaded by Finnish soprano Aino Ackté, who was already renowned in the opera houses of Europe.

In the early years only Finnish operas were performed, and in the first five seasons five different productions were staged in front of the castle.

World War I, the Russian Revolution and the Finnish Civil War meant a temporary end to the festival, and it was more than 40 years later before opera came back to Savonlinna.

Since then, many internationally-acclaimed companies have visited Finland and put on shows with medieval Olavinlinna castle, and the lakelands of south east Finland as their backdrop.