Mikkeli Music Festival, being held for the seventh time in 1998, has established
itself as an important event on cultural calendar. Audiences are steadily
growing and more than 8,000 people flocked to the concerts in 1997. The
festival has a prestigious artistic director in Valery Gergiyev, who is
Chief Conductor at the famous Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. He believes
that years of building work has now been completed and the festival has
become what he planned it to be.
The Mikaeli congress hall and congress centre, completed in 1988, is the
main festival venue. Concerts are also held in the and a large
wooden church as well as in several other suitable places in the town.
The chairperson of the committee that runs the festival
is Jukka Tikka. He describes it as a musical encounter between little Mikkeli
and mighty St. Petersburg. "Cooperation is not founded on official declarations
nor the power of big money, but rather in friendship, contentment and the
beauty of Finnish scenery," he says. When planning the next festival, he
always leaves himself time to swim, enjoy the sauna and be out and about
in the countryside. Many other people who come to Mikkeli to work try to
do the same.
Valery Gergiyev is a world-class star and Mikkeli's success
in recruiting him can be considered a minor miracle. In 1993 the International
Music Awards jury named him "Conductor of the Year" and the Musical America
Directory conferred the same title on him in 1996. The Mariinsky Theatre
has taken a place among the world's great opera houses under his leadership.
Its visits to many parts of the world, including one to the New York Metropolitan,
have been big successes. Gergiyev has also toured the world with his own
orchestra, which he takes to Mikkeli, along with top-class soloists, every
summer. It has become increasingly common for people from St. Petersburg
to cross the border for a holiday in the unpolluted beauty of the Finnish
lake district. Could that explain why the Mariinsky, so immensely popular
everywhere, remains faithful to Mikkeli?
Plans for summer 1999 include getting Esa-Pekka Salonen
over from Los Angeles to conduct a couple of concerts. A whole stage setting
will have to be build for a presentation of Verdi's "La Traviata" because
the one in St. Petersburg is too big to be transferred to the much smaller
Mikaeli. Verdi's "Aida" is likely to be the concert opera. In 1997, a concert
performance of Bizet's "Carmen" filled the wooden church, Finland's fourth-biggest,
with an audience of 1,400.
The concert hall and congress centre Mikaeli
was completed in summer 1988. Its name reflects the long history of the
town. Legend has it that in the 12th century the Archangel Michael came
from Novgorod to the shores of Savilahti Bay in the district. The building,
designed by the Arto Sipinen office, reveals the influence of Alvar Aalto:
marble from Lapland, birch, lots of light. The efficient totality is Finnish
functionalism at its finest. Mikaeli is very much a versatile facility.
It contains the 694-seat Martti Talvela Hall, a 166-seat chamber music
auditorium, both with outstanding acoustics. The lighting, sound and audio-visual
facilities are state-of-the-art. A cafeteria and a restaurant that can
be booked for private functions complete the range of services. The building
is only a kilometre from the central square.