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Rautavaara Aleksis Kivi

Aleksis Kivi - Jorma Hynninen
Young Alexis - Ville Rusanen
August Ahlqvist - Timo Torikka
Charlotta - Riilka Rantanen
Hilda - Pauliina Linnosaari

Directed by Pekka Milonoff at the Finnish National Opera, Soloists,
Finnish National Opera Orchestra/Mikko Franck

Ondine DVD ODV 4009

An opera (and its composer) which bored Alan Clements stiff on CD ***** (Guardian), it has more to offer on DVD, with a particularly useful introductory documentary, in which the ageing great baritone Jorma Hynninen explains how he persuaded the composer to divide the long eponymous part of Finland's great but disturbed national author with Ville Rusanen as Young Alexis, both often appearing on stage together. The successful young writer descended into mental illness and alcohol in later life; we watch him falling apart...

The staging is enlivened with a lot of action and ingenious use of props, with seven hyperactive brothers keeping things moving. Hynninen (now 70) is in excellent vocal health to depict the writer succumbing to schozophrenia in an alcoholic fog in the long second act, durng which our earlier enthusiasm tended to evaporate.

Even without knowledge of the language, one can hear, and easily believe, that Rautavaara sets the text gratefully for singers, rather as does Hugo Wolf his German poems. For a native Finn's appraisal of this opera and its ingenious staging at Helsinki see Göran Forsling*****.

Peter Grahame Woolf