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Creator of the Mikkeli Music Festival
Image size 16 Kb The 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.

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Mikkeli's Mikaeli

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.

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