★★★★★“Ingmar Bergman’s film is brilliantly re-conceived for the operatic stage”—Financial Times, UK
“Mother and daughter, what a terrible combination of emotions…”
Ingmar Bergman’s award-winning film is enthrallingly transferred to the operatic realm, adding an intense musical angst to the raw truths bared in this tale of a concert pianist’s inharmonious relationship with her daughters. Composer Sebastian Fagerlund, winner of Finland’s renowned Teosto Prize, provides an impassioned score for both orchestra and vocal stars, at the same time weaving the chorus compellingly into the drama to supercharge the brutal emotional exchanges. Intriguing staging, featuring flashbacks, parallel moments, open expanses, and even spectral presences, brings further layers of meaning along with a surreal edge, playing with time and space to add universal significance to the domestic setting. First performed at Finnish National Opera in 2017 and receiving international acclaim, Autumn Sonata’s Asian debut is not to be missed!
Licensed by arrangement with C. F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG, Leipzig Commissioned and produced by Finnish National Opera and Ballet
Photos: Jonas Persson
MalmÖ Opera ChorusHong KongPhilharmonic Orchestra
Erika SunnegårdhHelena Juntunen
Sebastian Fagerlund (1972- ) has established himself as one of the most prominent European composers of his generation. He studied composition at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki under the guidance of Erkki Jokinen and received his diploma in composition in 2004.
Important aspects of Sebastian’s work are his interest in large-scale forms and a profound view of music expressing fundamental questions and existential experiences. Sebastian was described in BBC Music Magazine as displaying “boundless technical resource at the service of a considerable imagination”. A highly virtuosic instrumental feel and strong sense of musicianship is noticeable in all of his works, creating musical dramas in which powerful expression is combined with intensity and vivid communication, as well as an openness towards different musical traditions.
Works by Sebastian have been commissioned and performed by numerous major orchestras, outstanding conductors and musicians all over the world. His output spans opera, chamber and solo works, among which the most significant pieces are his operas and works for orchestra. His works have been performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; and he has worked closely with conductors and musicians such as Dima Slobodeniouk, Anne Sofie von Otter, Edward Gardner, Hannu Lintu, Pekka Kuusisto, Sakari Oramo, Osmo Vänskä and John Storgårds. Sebastian has been guest composer at numerous festivals around the world, such as Aspen Music Festival, Baltic Sea Festival and Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival.
In 2011 Sebastian was awarded Finland’s renowned Teosto Prize, one of the largest music prizes in Scandinavia, for his orchestral work Ignite. The same year Ignite was also selected as a recommended work at the International Rostrum of Composers in Vienna. For 2016/17 Sebastian was appointed composer-in-residence by the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Holland. His opera Autumn Sonata premiered at the Finnish National Opera in the 2017/18 season to great critical acclaim, with Financial Times describing it as “Striking, superb”. In 2018 the recording of his bassoon concerto Mana received the BBC Music Magazine Awards in the concerto category. In February 2019, Sebastian’s cello concerto, Nomade, premiered at the Elbphilharmonie, with soloist Nicolas Altstaedt and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra conducted by Hannu Lintu.
Since 2013 Sebastian has been artistic director of the RUSK Chamber Music Festival in Jakobstad, Finland. His music is available on record label BIS.
Of Film and Opera/ TALK
Finnish composer Sebastian Fagerlund discusses the creative vision driving his operatic rendition of Ingmar Bergman’s film Autumn Sonata and how he transformed close-ups and bruising mother-daughter exchanges into powerful emotional soundscapes.
Speaker: Sebastian Fagerlund
Moderator: Dr Joanna Lee (Musicologist)
17.10 Thur 7:30pm
Podium Workshop, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Administration Building
In Cantonese and English
Free admission. Register online
Sebastian Fagerlund on Operatic Composition/ MASTERCLASS
Commissions from major orchestras around the world resulting in operas and orchestral works that garner wide acclaim are all part of Sebastian Fagerlund’s oeuvre. In this masterclass, learn from the award-winning Finnish composer himself about the different techniques he used to shape his movie-turned-contemporary-opera version of Autumn Sonata.
Speaker: Sebastian Fagerlund
18.10 Fri 1:30pm
Hong Kong Baptist University
Suitable for those with knowledge of musical composition
Free admission. Register online
My opera, Autumn Sonata, was commissioned by the Finnish National Opera and its world premiere took place in Helsinki on 8 September 2017. The libretto is written by Gunilla Hemming based on Ingmar Bergman’s film script.
The opera’s protagonist, Charlotte Andergast, is a concert pianist and mother who visits her older daughter Eva after years of absence. While Eva lives with her husband Viktor at a vicarage, they also take care of Eva’s gravely-ill younger sister Helena.
Later on, the libretto developed into a more illusive form compared to the relatively realistic screenplay. For instance, the film only briefly alludes to Charlotte’s recently deceased lover, Leonardo; but in the opera I wanted Leonardo to have a stronger presence, so the dead man is able to comment on the lives of the living from a distance. I also asked the librettist to include a “Greek chorus” in the opera, which became an extension of Charlotte’s ego. The concert audience follows her wherever she goes. It is because Charlotte needs her audience – they mean everything to her. They initially just appear in her imagination, but gradually infiltrate the reality of the vicarage and the cognitions of other characters, who begin to communicate with the choir, too. Such extensions are absolutely momentous in an opera, as they create interesting time layers between the real and the unreal and unveil the mother’s egoism in both tragic and absurd scenes.
When the family members converge under one roof after years of separation, they begin to delve into the past. Despite their good intentions, old wounds are reopened and ultimately they are chained by inevitability – something that haunted me through the entire creative process and became as important as the protagonists’ actions. In the end, their inability to take the last, crucial step makes change and forgiveness more difficult. I am very interested in the parallels this may have in the real world. To a certain extent, we all need to change ourselves or people around us. The final step, many times however, is an insurmountable challenge to us, so often everything just stays the same.
Autumn Sonata is my most extensive work so far. It combines and develops musical elements from both my previous orchestral as well as vocal music. At the same time, its composition is seemingly not an endpoint, but rather a new platform that leads to new interesting directions and thoughts. I feel that an opera cannot be composed before there is a subject or a story that “resonates on the same frequency” with one’s own expression. In the early stages of the composition process, it seemed as if the story and its characters were just waiting for me in the shadow of my mind. As I continued to compose, the musical tides of the opera pulled me into their big depths; and even after the composition was done, I still find myself thinking of the characters and their destinies.
Grand Theatre,Hong KongCultural Centre
18-19.10(FRI-SAT) 7:30PM 20.10 (SUN) 3PMSEAT PLAN
$780, $660, $540, $380*, $220*
* Some seats may have restricted view
Approx 2 hrs 30 mins incl an interval