The chamber opera Orlando is based on Virginia Woolf's novel, which has also gained cult status as a film. Woolf is said to have written this satirical work to keep her own melancholy at bay. The music composed by Johanna Almark traverses time and styles, following the timeless journey of Orlando from a young aristocrat in the 16th century, aspiring composer, to a 20th-century successful female composer.
The chamber opera begins with a prologue in which the narrator - perhaps Virginia herself - calls for Orlando.
Orlando is a young nobleman who dreams of becoming a composer. He loves nature and solitude, and he idolizes renowned composers. Sitting beneath an old oak tree, he attempts to capture the beauty of nature, especially that of the oak, through melodies. His composing is interrupted when Orlando falls in love. A Russian princess named Sasha turns Orlando's world upside down. Orlando is betrayed in love and dedicates himself to composing. He decides to present his composition, an Ode to an Oak tree, to the admired composer. However, his composer colleague dismisses the piece. Orlando loses faith in humanity and his homeland, England. He falls into a deep sleep - and awakens as a woman. In Victorian England, Orlando experiences the challenges of being a woman. She marries according to the spirit of the time and struggles with whether a woman can compose. She overcomes her own doubts and completes her composition. In 1928, Orlando presents her work, the Ode to an Oak Tree, to a respected music critic of her time. The critic turns out to be the same person who centuries ago had criticized the same composition as worthless. The composition is published and wins awards.
Composition / Music: Johanna Almark
Libretto: Nely Keinänen, Heta Heiskanen, Johanna Almark
Lyrics: Virginia Woolf, Nely Keinänen, Heta Heiskanen, Margareta Nordström, Johanna Almark
Idea: Pekka Silén
Direction: Kaisa Torkkel
Visual Design: Kimmo Karjunen
Set Element Design: Xiao Zhiyu | Untitled (curtain), 2022, Twelve hand-bent aluminum sheets, 900 x 350 x 10 cm
Costumes: Riku Tiedemann
Graphics: Annaway/Anna Nordling
Photography: Cata Portin
Production: Johanna Almark, Pekka Silén
Surtitles: Kirsti Simonsuuri, Heta Heiskanen (Finnish), Johanna Almark (Swedish), Virginia Woolf/Nely Keinänen (English)
On Stage: Johanna Almark, soprano, and the Hearts of Oak Chamber Ensemble:
Sofia Fernholm, recorder,
Sebastian Brenner, clarinet,
Ann-Louise Wägar, bassoon,
Sebastian Silén, violin,
Mauri Kuokkanen, viola,
Antto Tunkkari, cello,
Vilhelm Karlsson, double bass.