in Reviews

Booze and politics

by Juha Torvinen

"Whether this is an opera, a form of music theatre, a happening or an extravaganza does not matter."

HEINZ-JUHANI HOFMANN:
Ahti Karjalainen – Elämä, Kekkonen ja teot [Ahti Karjalainen – Life, Kekkonen and Works]
Juha Hurme (libretto)
Herman Wallen (baritone), Anu Komsi (soprano), Pia Komsi (soprano & cello), Annika Mylläri (soprano)
Kokkola Opera Ensemble, cond. Erkki Lasonpalo
Alba Records ABCD 381

 

Ahti Karjalainen was a Finnish politician famous for his complicated relationship with long-term president of Finland, Urho Kekkonen, and for an equally complicated relationship with alcohol. No wonder, then, that Heinz-Juhani Hofmann’s opera on Karjalainen is probably the first instance where booze is among the characters of an operatic work.

The premiere of the work in 2012 was received well both in Finland and abroad. Indeed, this recording of great performances shows how the work hardly leaves anyone untouched. It’s effective, unique, irritating and fascinating.

Remarkably, there is almost no singing in the traditional sense of the word. Multiply Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre by five. Whether this is an opera, a form of music theatre, a happening or an extravaganza does not matter. What matters is that the radicalness of Hofmann’s music and social criticism of Juha Hurme’s libretto create a whole that is, in the perspective of Finnish political history, analogous to the kind of shambles Karjalainen’s life was between political left and right, the Soviets and the West, and Kekkonen and booze.

Anything can happen at any time.