Among hundreds of sweaty bodies I cross the bridge and enter the medieval fortress, which is flanked by two watchtowers. The guards at the gate check my permit and finally let me continue my way. After climbing rampant staircases I bump into a maiden dressed in national costume. She graciously gives me directions to the tenebrous depths of the castle’s inner courtyard, where I will be received in audience today…
… by the queen of chant, Finnish soprano Tarja Turunen. Because in the castle, which was built in 1475, has since 1967 regularly been the scene of the world-renowned Savonlinna Opera festival. Olavinlinna castle is deservedly famous for its unique acoustics.
I have come here to see a concert performed by Tarja Turunen and tenor Raimo Sirkiä in cooperation with the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Riku Niemi. At first, one single show had been scheduled for July 16th, but although the auditorium in the inner courtyard can comprise 2257 spectators, it was sold out a few days later. Consequently, a second show to be performed on July 21st was organized. I was lucky to get hold of a ticket to this one and thus get a chance to assure myself of the ticket- buyers high expectations being justified.
The concert offered a crossover of opera, musical and rock and began with “Così Fan Tutte” by Amadeus Mozart.
The stage entry of the two stars Turunen and Sirkiä was put on marvellously.
Singing “The Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Turunen descended a flight of stairs left- hand of the stage, while Sirkiä appeared on the right side of the stage. After this duet they sang alternately. Turunen performed “Rusalka’s Aria” by Antonín Dvorak, whereupon Sirkiä presented “Caruso” by Lucio Dalla. After that, Turunen intonated “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” from the musical Evita. She sang the chorus in Spanish at first, then she just hummed it and finally left it completely to the orchestra, before ending with its English version. Sirkiä’s “Lamento di Federico” from the opera L’ Arlesiana was followed up by Nightwish’s “Moondance” as an instrumental interlude, which had been adorably arranged for the orchestra.
Of course, Turunen and Sirkiä were not upstaged by this, as they themselves presented the Nightwish- classics “Two for Tragedy” and “Angels Fall First”. The reason for this choice is that Tarja Turunen has been the vocalist of Nightwish from 1997 to 2005 and she decided to continue singing her preferred Nightwish- songs in her solo concerts. However, Raimo Sirkiä does not seem to be an admirer of this band as he had to help himself with sheets during the performance of these songs.
The last song before the 20 minute brake was the amazing “Written in the Stars” from the musical Aida by Elton John and Tim Rice. While Turunen and Sirkiä were singing, small light bulbs were lit on the castle wall behind the stage.
Riku Niemi and the Kuopio Symphonic Orchestra opened the second half of the show with the “Intermezzo Sinfonico” from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni.
Tarja Turunen had changed her clothes for the second half from a black pantsuit to a blue gown. Raimo Sirkiä had drastically changed his looks, too … by losing his jacket!
After Sirkiä’s performance of Leoncavallo and Turunen’s “Somewhere” from the musical “Westside Story”, they sang the duet “There for me” in embrace.
This was followed by another orchestral interlude. The Kuopio Symphony Orchestra played “Freestyler” – yes, exactly, Freestyler by Bomfunk MC’s. Riku Niemi had rearranged this song for orchestra and it was performed so stirringly, that he almost outranked Turunen and Sirkiä as stars of the show! The conductor proved real show talent by at first tap- dancing, than beating time with two xylophone sticks, of which he had one in his mouth and finally jumping off the stage and continuing to beat time on an iron bar belonging to the audience balustrade! He did all this with gestures that would have done honour to every clown! Consequently, laughter sounded from the audience.
The concert continued with the probably most bombastic version of “Proud Mary” any conductor has ever drawn from a symphonic orchestra. It was sung by Raimo Sirkiä, accompanied by the also singing Riku Niemi and the singing and dancing Tarja Turunen. The audience was thrilled and shook the castle walls by stomping their feet. It has often been said by Tarja Turunen in interviews that the Nightwish- Fans only get to know a small part of her actual voice. Up to know I never really got what she ment by that. But since I heard her sing Lauretta’s Aria (O mio babbino caro) by Puccini I just have to admit she is right! Her vocal performance of this song was literally breathtaking!
According to the program the final song of the concert was supposed to be “Beauty of the Beast” by Nightwish. For this, 8 members of the Opera Festival Choir – 4 female, 4 male – stepped on the stairhead on the right hand side of the stage. Again, the audience was carried away by the bombastic performance of the Orchestra, Tarja Turunen’s dramatic voice and also some dancing of hers. In my opinion this was the perfect ending to a perfect concert, but I was wrong…
Turunen and Sirkiä surprised their audience with an encore – “Brindisi” from “La Traviata”.
While singing it, Tarja Turunen remounted the flight of stairs she had descended at the beginning during “Phantom of the Opera”, creating a harmonic ending.
All musicians were highly acknowledged with applause.
After the concert, most visitors left castle’s courtyard immediately, except of some fans of Tarja’s, who wanted to take the opportunity of meeting their star. Finally, Tarja appeared with her husband Marcelo Cabuli. As he left the scene carrying Tarja’s luggage and a bouquet of roses, which had been presented to Tarja on stage, she took her time to patiently talk to the fans, write autographs and pose for photos. I had a chance to speak to her, too and asked her (not too creatively) when she would make her next stage appearance in Germany – after all I had travelled 1600 km to see her! She answered she was planning some concerts in Germany for next year! Well, I guess we have something to look forward to!
Tarja Turunen and Raimo Sirkiä in front of Olavinlinna
Olavinlinna is on a lake.
After the show: Tarja meets up with her waiting fans, husband Marcelo carries her flowers and luggage.
Hartwall Areena Helsinki: On October 21, 2005 the
legendary last show of Nightwish with Tarja
Turunen took place here in front of 11.500 spectators.