★★★★★“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.
Mezzo-soprano as Charlotte Andergast
“Charlotte Hellekant offered the greatest acting I have ever witnessed on an opera stage”
A versatile and captivating stage performer, Charlotte Hellekant’s repertoire ranges from the baroque to contemporary classics. Recently she has made her role debut as Clairon in Capriccio at La Monnaie, and appeared in Lili Boulanger’s Faust et Hélène cantata with Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra; as Judith in Duke Bluebeard’s Castle at Bergen International Festival; in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Orchestre National de France; and in Berio’s Folk Songs with Los Angeles Philharmonic and Norrköping Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martin Fröst.
Her performances in the current season include Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder with Orchestre National de France under the baton of Cristian Măcelaru, The Raven with Ensemble Lucilin in Bilbao, and Matsukaze with Sasha Waltz & Guests at Staastoper Unter den Linden.
Soprano as Eva
Since her critically acclaimed operatic debut in 2004 in the role of Turandot at Malmö Opera, and her much publicised 2006 Metropolitan Opera debut as Leonore in Fidelio, the Swedish-American soprano has established herself as a unique and touching artist, earning a reputation for her ability to integrate effective musicianship with uncompromisingly fearless and emotionally nuanced characterisations. Other opera roles include Salome, Tosca, Senta, Chrysothemis, and Kaiserin; as well as novelties like Euryanthe, Regan (Lear), Eva (Autumn Sonata), and Paulina (Death and the Maiden); and in concert, Verdi’s Requiem, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Schoenberg’s Op. 8, and Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony.
Erika has had the privilege of appearing with many esteemed conductors, like Marco Armiliato, Semyon Bychkov, Riccardo Chailly, Myung-Wun Chung, Gustavo Dudamel, Daniel Harding, Jesús López-Cobos, Fabio Luisi, Nicola Luisotti, Gianandrea Noseda, Kirill Petrenko, and Sir Simon Rattle; at major opera and concert venues in New York, Munich, Paris, Vienna, Stockholm, Berlin, Frankfurt, Turin, Geneva, Glyndebourne, Warsaw, Hamburg, Edinburgh, Toronto, Atlanta, and Florence.
Baritone as Viktor
One of Scandinavia´s leading baritones today, Fredrik Zetterström studied with Birgit Stenberg and received his musical education at the University College of Opera in Stockholm. In 2012, he won the prestigious Opera Magazine prize for his interpretation of Wozzeck at Norrlandsoperan.
Having worked with all Scandinavian opera companies as well as opera houses in Europe and America, Fredrik is renowned for his diverse range of roles. His repertoire spans a wide spectrum from the baroque to the most contemporary operas. Among his signature roles are Rigoletto, Scarpia in Tosca, Jago in Otello, Amonasro in Aida, and many others. In 2013, he was praised for his title role in Aribert Reimann´s Lear at Malmö Opera.
Fredrik´s expansive vocal range has contributed to successful colloborations with such contemporary composers as Daniel Börtz, Lars Ekström, Jonas Forsell, to mention but a few. He is also a frequent concert soloist who has sung with numerous orchestras across Europe, including the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, etc.
Soprano as Helena
Having established an international career, Helena Juntunen is currently one of Finland’s most dazzling young sopranos.
In 2002, Helena experienced her professional breakthrough after playing the role of Marguerite in Gounod’s Faust at the Savonlinna Opera Festival. Other prominent roles include Madame Cortese in Il viaggio a Reims under the direction of Nobel laureate Dario Fo, Nedda in Il Pagliacci, Mimi in La Boheme, Marie/Marietta in Die Tote Stadt, Chrysothemis in Elektra, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Jenny Hill in The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro, Marie in Wozzeck, and title roles in Madama Butterfly, Salome and Kata Kabanova, and world premieres such as Alide in Juri Reinvere’s Purge, Karin Månsdottir in Erik XIV, and Helena in Sebastian Fagerlund’s Autumn Sonata alongside Anne Sofie von Otter.
Helena’s recent concert highlights include Sibelius’ Luonnotar in Sydney and London with Vladimir Ashkenazy; the same work with Leif Segerstam and John Storgårds in Amsterdam and Ottawa respectively; Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Lucerne Festival under Vladimir Jurowski; Unsuk Chin’s snagS&Snarls in Stavanger, Helsinki and London; Hafliði Hallgrímsson’s new song cycle in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Reykjavík; Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with La Verdi under Xian Zhang; the same work with Sir Colin Davis in London, Bonn, Paris and New York. She has also made her debuts in Ein deutsches Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Donald Runnicles, and Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Vänskä.
Bass as Leonardo
Having graduated from the Sibelius Academy in 2008, Nicholas Söderlund won the second prize at the Lappeenranta National Singing Competition in 2006, and at the International Sibelius Singing Competition in 2007. He received the Finnish Wagner Society’s Bayreuth Scholarship and the Martti Talvela Foundation Award in 2007, and the Karita Mattila Scholarship in 2009.
In 2007, Nicholas made his professional opera debut at the Finnish National Opera (FNO) as Wachtmeister in Pacius’ The Hunt of King Charles. Since then, he has been a regular guest singer at FNO. Among his many opera roles are Sprecher in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Schaunard and Colline in Puccini’s La Bohème, Wagner in Gounod’s Faust, Fléville in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, and Marquis d’Obigny in Verdi’s La Traviata, Frank in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, etc.
Also an active concert singer, Nicholas has performed as a soloist with many Finnish orchestras. He has sung oratorios and lieder in the Nordic countries, Russia, Estonia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy, etc. He is particularly keen on performing contemporary Finnish music, and has made several recordings for the Finnish Broadcasting Company.
Malmö Opera Chorus
Malmö Opera is situated in the very centre of Malmö, Sweden´s third largest city. The opera house is a masterpiece of functionalist architecture, with a grand foyer, an auditorium with 1,500 seats and a first-class restaurant, widely regarded as one of the largest stages in Europe. Other than the great classics, they also present modern operas, musicals, contemporary dance, classical ballets and concerts, collaborating with artists from all over the world and offering productions of the highest standard.
The Malmö Opera Chorus consists of 36 choristers, both male and female. Characterised by their ability to master a wide range of musical styles, the choristers are both excellent musicians and actors, just as familiar with West Side Story and La Traviata as they are with contemporary opera.
Malmö Opera celebrates its 75th birthday this year. It was opened on 23 September 1944.
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Recognised as one of Asia’s foremost classical orchestras, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HK Phil)’s Music Director Jaap van Zweden is one of today’s most sought-after conductors. He is also Music Director of the New York Philharmonic since the 2018/19 season. At present, the Principal Guest Conductor is Yu Long. Jaap, the HK Phil, a superb cast of soloists and a chorus successfully completed an epic four-year journey through Wagner’s Ring Cycle in January 2018. The recording of Götterdämmerung was released in November 2018.
A Finnish playwright, librettist, screenwriter and dramaturge who writes primarily in Swedish, Gunilla Hemming’s plays have been performed at numerous theatres in Finland and abroad, reaching both Swedish- and Finnish-speaking audiences.
One of Sweden's most prolific conductors with well over 80 operas and a vast concert repertory, Patrik Ringborg was Music Director at Freiburg Opera until 2006. The following year he was appointed General Music Director at the State Theatre in Kassel, and remained in this position for a decade.
He has been engaged by the Staatsoper Dresden, Volksoper in Vienna, Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Norwegian National Opera and many others. His debut at the Opera House in Cologne followed in 2010 with Der Rosenkavalier (including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's farewell performances).
Maestro Ringborg has been a guest with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra since 1996, and conducted the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in 2008. Having conducted the Stockholm Royal Opera in Elektra (Savonlinna 2010), his opera debut in Stockholm followed in 2013 with a new production of Parsifal directed by Christof Loy.
In 2014, he won the Opera Prize from the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet for Parsifal and The Rhine Gold, and topped the Opus magazine’s list of the 20 most important persons in Swedish classical music in 2015. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
A regular guest with the Malmö Opera since 2017, he conducted the premiere of Autumn Sonata in September the same year.
Director / Set Designer
Born in Paris in 1964, Stéphane Braunschweig is a director, stage designer and translator. He furthered his studies at the theatrical academy of Chaillot National Theatre directed by Antoine Vitez, after studying philosophy at the École normale supérieure. In 1988, he founded his own theatre company, Le Théâtre-Machine. Ever since, he has presented nearly 70 productions which have earned him an international reputation. In his own words, his work is to be conceived as a form of “imaginary dialogue” with the authors, whose texts are doors leading to “the widest landscape that connects with the world”.
His repertoire ranges from Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, Molière or Racine, to modern classics of the last two centuries (Kleist, Büchner, Ibsen, Chekhov, Wedekind, Pirandello, Brecht, Horváth and Beckett). Contemporary playwrights, such as Hanoch Levin and Arne Lygre, have also collaborated with him.
As for operas, he has worked with the greatest opera houses, including La Scala (Italy), Théâtre du Châtelet (France), Opéra-Comique (France), Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (France), Monnaie (Belgium) etc, and contributed to arts festivals globally, for instance in Edinburgh, Aix-en-Provence, Salzburg and Vienna. His repertoire includes classics of Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, Bellini, Debussy, Schreker, Bartok, Janacek, Strauss and Berg, as well as the complete cycle of Wagner’s The Ring and world premieres of Fenelon, Dazzi and Fagerlund.
To date, Stéphane has headed several French venues, among which were the national theatres located in Strasbourg and La Colline. He is currently director of the Odéon Théâtre in Paris.
Born in Brussels in 1967, the Belgian costume designer studied in Florence and began his career in dance, theatre and opera in his home country. He has collaborated with directors and choreographers such as Frédéric Dussenne, Enzo Pezzella, Pierre Droulers, Olga de Soto, etc. Since 1996, he has designed costumes for French director Stéphane Braunschweig’s plays and operas, including Janáček’s Jenůfa and Verdi’s Rigoletto, just to name a few.
Starting from 2006, Thibault has designed costumes for Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg Easter Festival, again staged by Braunschweig. He also designed operatic costumes for Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, Brecht’s The Lindbergh Flight, Saariaho’s Émilie and Wagner’s Parsifal.
Besides his stage activities, he has also designed two video installations based on texts by Maurice Blanchot, and led a photography project in collaboration with Gregoire Romefort. Since 2001, he has conducted masterclasses at The National Theatre of Strasbourg and The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. He won the award for best costume design at the Nuit des Molières ceremony for Braunschweig’s Tartuffe.
After working with contemporary choreographers such as Angelin Preljocaj, Dominique Boivin and Sidonie Rochon, Marion Hewlett has become director Stéphane Braunschweig’s lighting designer of choice for both his theatre and opera productions. Her notable works in lyrics include Bluebeard’s Castle at Théâtre du Châtelet, Fidelio with Daniel Barenboim at the Vienna State Opera, Jenůfa at Théâtre du Châtelet, Rigoletto at La Monnaie in Brussels, and more. The most recent dramas she has participated in are Britannicus at Comédie-Française and Suddenly, Last Summer at Odéon Théâtre, where she is the regular lighting designer.
She has also worked on the set design for Bluebeard's Castle in Rio de Janeiro, for ballet at Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole, and for drama on different occasions. Her newest projects include Swan Lake in Vienna, in collaboration with Manuel Legris, and Le Corsaire in Toulouse with Kader Belarbi. Her latest work for contemporary opera is Autumn Sonata in Helsinki, written by Sebastian Fagerlund.
Having worked with Stéphane Braunschweig since 1999 and revived productions of Strauss, Debussy, Janacek, Bellini and Verdi on prestigious stages throughout Europe, Georges Gagneré collaborated also with Peter Stein on several productions at the Lyon Opera House. He directed various musical theatre productions with the French a cappella band Piccolo and the Swiss actress Ariane Moret.
He is member of the didascalie.net platform exploring emerging art forms using new technologies on stage, creating pieces after Jacques Roubaud, Georges Perec, Leonid Andreïev, especially at the National Theatre of Strasbourg.
He is teaching theatre and digital art at the Université Paris 8, and has been leading several research projects with scientific laboratories, international institutions and companies specialised in digital tools and video games.
Hannu Aario is Technical Manager at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet. His career started at the Finnish National Theatre and throughout the past 30 years, he has produced over 100 opera and ballet premieres. He has toured Macau, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg and Italy with his works. Head of Technical Managers at the international forum “Opera Europe” and a licensed pyrotechnician.
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