Here and Future – Sibelius Academy Opera studies
When I first arrived at Sibelius Academy, I had no idea what to expect from either the opera program, or Finland. Moving here to study was an almost complete leap in the dark, guided mostly by instinct and sheer stubbornness.
I never expected Finland to take root in my heart as it did.
The past two years have been a period of incredible, intense growth on both professional and personal levels.
At the beginning of studies, I couldn’t afford a bed, so I was sleeping on a thin mattress on top of cardboard boxes; the room was empty; I knew very few people, not even my HOAS-assigned flatmate; I did not know where the forests and green spaces were; even the sea, even the trees were strangers to me.
I was very quickly astonished by the supportive, steady, patient and nurturing approach taken by the teachers at SibA and the community around the opera class, and by the warmth, kindness of my classmates. The compelling nature and particular wonder of the way the seasons change up here, so unique to other parts of the world, swept me away. Over the course of the first year, my heart was constantly being broken by such beauty and kindness, and melted back together again in new ways. Even the fabled winter and seasonal darkness created new opportunities for self-discovery, with the processing of old things, and readying self for new growth. Everywhere around, from classmates, teachers, and the growing community, was reflected inspiration, and deep care and respect. For this, and for the chance to know myself better as an artist and a human as this work has allowed, I will be forever deeply grateful.
The chance to study and perform principal roles in the past four productions has been incredibly growth-inducing, and the chance to work with the body through excellent acting, movement, dance and stagefighting classes has been invaluable. Equally, the experience of working intensively with such a wonderful class, both in our classes and productions and with our special projects in Oulu, Kallio-Kuninkala and Tbilisi, among others, is also something I will carry with me forever. The possibility of doing such deep work, that does not shy away from the negative, together with my colleagues and seeing how we all have grown through the process, has been inspiring. The opportunities to work with amazing musicians and artists as teachers and mentors, and to focus on music in depth every day have also been dreams come true.
I hope that wherever I go next in the world to pursue this career, I will be able to stay very much connected to Finland. My long-term goal is to stay rooted in the Nordic countries and be able to work locally as well as internationally; we live in a time, with climate change, it feels unrealistic and perhaps irresponsible to me to plan a career that completely depends on air travel. I hope there will be more solutions emerging that allow and support musicians in international work.
At the moment, my plans include creating future projects (hopefully) with classmates, and auditioning for opera apprenticeship programs at houses across Europe. I hope to continue work with small experimental and early music chamber ensembles, and collaborate with new exciting projects at the fringe of classical music as well as on the stage. Coming up in November, I am looking forward to a concert at the Goethe Institute with pianist Maritta Manner, and in December, a medieval/experimental music project focusing on the life of Merlin, with a trio of musicians from Czech Republic and Spain/Switzerland.
However, life runs forward from this moment, I hope I will be able to at least occasionally come back here and see the sky, the particular slant of the light, the sea and the forests that I have loved so deeply and that have provided such a space for me to learn to be myself: as an artist, as a person in the world.
I am looking forward to discovering what life has next in store. I think it will be surprising.
Text: Isabella Shaw
Sibelius Academy Opera & Helsinki Sinfonietta
Markus Lehtinen, conductor
Markku Nenonen, director and sets
Elina Kolehmainen, costumes
Tuija Luukkainen, make-up
Eero Erkamo, lights
Cast: Réka Bata, Minna-Leena Lahti, Topias Lundell, Rachel Mcintosh, Isabella Shaw, Henri Tikkanen and Jussi Vänttinen
Performances: Tue 8 Oct at 18.30, Wed 9 Oct at 18.30, Fri 11 Oct at 18.30, Sat 12 Oct at 16.00