Huvila Tent. Photo: Simo Karisalo

Super Highlights of Helsinki Festival 2014 0

Agnese Čivle,

Helsinki Festival 2014
Helsinki, Finland
August 15 – 31, 2014

In 2014, the Helsinki Festival, the largest arts event of its kind in Finland and the Nordic countries, will be offering a program packed with international megastars such as avant garde icon Laurie Anderson and the boundary-breaking Kronos Quartet, the conducting legend Daniel Barenboim, the Chicano rock gods Los Lobos, and the all-time greatest rock drummer, Ginger Baker. The festival will also showcase an extensive roll call of Finnish artists who have triumphed on the international scene, including Tero Saarinen, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Karita Mattila, Kimmo Pohjonen, Kristian Smeds and the Race Horse Company.

This year, the Helsinki Festival will also focus on power relations surrounding the built environment. On the Night of the Arts, visitors will be invited to construct their own versions of controversial building projects such as the proposed Guggenheim Museum and the new City Library. The festival will be at its most visible at Kansalaistori Square, where the Helsinki Festival’s KoeHelsinki urban oasis will have its base. KoeHelsinki is a festival green filled with art and exciting experiences. Many of the events taking place there will be free of charge.

We asked festival organizers about the festival program policy, and to mention the brightest highlights to be found in each festival section.

Today a lot of great music festivals, such as the Roskilde Festival, are breaking new ground in terms of festival art. Art considerably broadens the palette of personal enrichment opportunities available at these festivals. The Helsinki Festival is a multi-arts festival, but in spite of this, has it encountered the need for changes or additions in its program policy in order to ensure a greater diversity of art forms? – So as to feed the culture-hungry?

The Helsinki Festival is a multi-arts festival, as you mentioned, and therefore, we already have a wide variety of different art forms in our program. However, the Helsinki Festival does have to respond to changes in art and society, and we have done this through at least two means. First of all, the emphasis has shifted away from the classic type of music concerts and has instead moved towards large-scale urban events in which the Festival invites the people to participate. The second way is the performing arts: we host many events which are difficult to categorize. Many art performances slide in somewhere between the boundaries of theater, dance, circus acts and the performing and visual arts – and we encourage this phenomenon as a Festival.

Tatzu Nishi. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

How big is the focus on visual art in the festival program? Does the program offer a different kind of approach to the visual arts compared to what we can experience throughout the rest of the year – in museums and art spaces?

The visual arts are a strong part of the Helsinki Festival. We have traditional art exhibitions, but also happenings and projects which tend to attract a lot of attention from both the press and the people of Helsinki. For example, the internationally-renowned Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi is coming to the Festival – it will be his first visit to the Nordic countries. Nishi will transform the beloved Havis Amanda statue and fountain into a single-room hotel, thereby addressing the question of what is the difference between open public space and private space. 

Could you please mention one or two super-highlights from each program section that shouldn't be missed?

“Orango”. Photo: Clive Barda

Classical music:

Esa-Pekka Salonen has in his possession something of a rarity: the prologue to Shostakovich’s previously little-known opera, “Orango”. This recently discovered gem has been performed only a couple of times and is now due to receive its Finnish debut at the Helsinki Festival. The concert will feature Mariinsky Theatre soloists from Russia.

The Helsinki Festival is proud to present Laurie Anderson’s hypnotic and dream-like poem, “Landfall”, together with the Kronos Quartet.

“Super Sunday”. Photo: Petter Hellman

Circus, Theatre, Dance:

The Race Horse Company, Finland’s internationally best-known new circus ensemble, brings to the stage “Super Sunday”, their latest production. It smirks at death and features a pack of wild men pushing their physical limits further and fiercer than ever before. The wheel of death, the human catapult, the teeterboard… can you survive them if you have no faith? “Super Sunday” is a roller-coaster ride that flies off the tracks.

In his much-awaited new production, MORPHED, Tero Saarinen sets out to shake up the prevailing definition of masculinity. At this truly unique premiere event, the Finnish National Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who is also responsible for the musical score.

Back to Back Theatre, one of Australia’s foremost creative forces, focuses on ethical, philosophical and social issues concerning the rights of the individual. Their brutally honest and mind-blowingly powerful performance, “Ganesh vs. the Third Reich”, forces viewers to face up to otherness and discrimination.

Ginger Baker

Huvila Festival Tent

Drummer and founding member of both the legendary Cream and the super-group Blind Faith, Ginger Baker is still considered one of the foremost rock ’n’ roll drummers of all time. At Huvila, Baker will be appearing with his latest band, Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion, serving up dense fusion jazz with Afro and prog influences.

The full Helsinki Festival 2014 program is available at