New Finnish-American opera explores humanity in a global environmental disaster

Students of the Sibelius Academy of Uniarts Helsinki and Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California (USC) collaborate on world-premiere opera “All the Truths We Cannot See, A Chernobyl Story”. The opera explores the explosion of the Chernobyl power plant in 1986, its causes and consequences. Students from both institutions perform at the Helsinki Music Centre starting from 15 March 2022, and in Los Angeles at USC’s Bing Theatre in April 2022.

All the Truths We Cannot See is an opera by Finnish composer and doctoral student at the Sibelius Academy, Uljas Pulkkis. His work is based on a libretto by the American author and music scholar Glenda Dawn Goss, who is an adjunct professor at the Sibelius Academy.

The new opera, postponed for a year due to the pandemic, is produced as a collaboration between the Sibelius Academy and the USC Thornton School of Music. Students from both institutions perform at the world premiere at the Helsinki Music Centre on 15 March 2022, and the American premiere at USC’s Bing Theatre on 21 April 2022.

The opera will be directed by Professor Ken Cazan from USC Thornton. Professor of Opera Markus Lehtinen from the Sibelius Academy and Associate Professor of Opera Brent McMunn from USC Thornton will conduct.

International collaboration nurtures the next generation of artists

“What is special about the piece is that it has been composed for the voices of current opera students at the Sibelius Academy, and the students from both institutions take turns in the main roles in both Helsinki and Los Angeles,” says Markus Lehtinen.

A group of students from USC Thornton are currently at the Sibelius Academy preparing for the premiere. Similarly, a group of Sibelius Academy students will rehearse and perform in Los Angeles in the spring.

“International collaborations are important for our students by giving them different influences to build up their artistic identity and career. This project brings together the various actors and phases contributing to a complete opera piece: the students and the team of professionals from various fields all engage in the close creative process, starting from the first brainstorming sessions all the way to the finished work,” says Lehtinen. 

Commentary on global environmental themes 

The explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant caused a global environmental disaster.

“Art can offer a safe platform to address the difficult and complex topics and time periods in our recent history. It allows us to see the world through someone else. In this opera, environmental disaster, power structures and questions of survival come close, for example, through many intense human characters, animal figures and elements of wildlife. That is why it is also a timely piece in many ways,” say Dean Emilie Gardberg of the Sibelius Academy.

“It is exciting for two of the world’s leading music schools to cooperate on a production of such musical, political and social importance,” says Dean Robert Cutietta of the USC Thornton School of Music. “The event this opera explores had international implications and happened before most of our current students were born. This collaborative project has the potential to make a life-changing impact on our students and audiences. Working in international partnership amplifies that message.”

An increased awareness of energy efficiency, reuse and recycling is transforming the world of opera as an art form. That is why the production uses as much recycled material as possible both in costumes and stage settings.

Environmental Opera Research Conference: 18 March 2022

The premiere of the opera in Helsinki will also serve as a backdrop for an international conference on opera research on 18 March 2022 titled Opera and The Environment, viewing opera for the first time from the perspective of environmental disaster.  

The conference, free of charge and open to the public, will be organised in hybrid format. Registrations are open until 13 March 2022. Joy H. Calico, of Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, Nashville, USA, has been invited as a keynote speaker.

Opera performance dates at the Helsinki Music Centre

  • Premiere: 15 March 2022
  • Other performances: 16 March, 18-19 March and 21-22 March


  • 18–36 € from Ticketmaster
  • 15–35 € from Helsinki Music Centre

Further information:

Opera, Helsinki: Professor of Opera at Uniarts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy Markus Lehtinen, tel. +358 40 565 1547,

Opera, Los Angeles: Professor of Opera/Resident Stage Director at the USC Thornton School of Music, Ken Cazan, tel. +1 213 740 6451,

Conference, Helsinki: Dr and Docent Liisamaija Hautsalo, tel. +358 40 5323 425,

Media enquiries:

Head of Communications at Uniarts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy Nelli Kuokka, tel. +358 40 822 7130,

Director of Communications at USC Thornton School of Music Evan Calbi,

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All the Truths We Cannot See: A Chernobyl Story 1986 is an opera by Uljas Pulkkis and Glenda Dawn Goss, which will premiere in Helsinki on 15 March 2022 and in Los Angeles on 21 April 2022. It will be produced as a collaboration between Uniarts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy and the USC Thornton School of Music. The opera production and related international cooperation have been sponsored by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation.