There are works of art that push the public out of their comfort zone by approaching subjects that are controversial, difficult or even repulsive, and more convenient to ignore than confront. A representative example in Finnish contemporary music is Heinz-Juhani Hofmann’s Ihmissydän (Human Heart, 2011), a one-hour-long monologue opera for mezzo-soprano and tape that handles a taboo subject, the sexual abuse of a child.
The composer’s libretto does not evade or lecture. Free of empty sensationalism, it forces the listener to dwell on the scenes and take in the brutal details by using a compulsively repetitive language that reaches an emotional and bodily level. The solo part includes more speech than singing and involves a close cooperation with the tape.
Jutta Seppinen, versatile and vulnerable in the roles of both the victim and the abuser, manages to brilliantly express the emotional contradictions embedded in the situation. Seppinen has also written an insightful sleeve text that helps to put Ihmissydän into a context and to view it, for instance, as an attempt to break the spell of a collective denial.
Heinz-Juhani Hofmann: Ihmissydän
Jutta Seppinen, mezzo-soprano