Opera in Savonlinna, Finland
When I visited Finland alone in March 2000 it was snowing (when it wasn’t raining). Many Finns with whom I spoke said that perhaps I had chosen the wrong time of year and suggested that I return in high summer and, if I was an opera fan, go to Savonlinna.
I tapped into oopperajuhlat.fi to buy tickets for The Magic Flute. “Sorry, sold out for the season,” was the reply. It was early April! I begged to be placed on a waiting list. Within a few weeks I was granted two tickets to the July 13th performance.
Next I inquired about a room and was told, “Sorry, nothing available in the area in July.” Additional wheedling and begging yielded an inexpensive room in a college dormitory. Did I mind? Not in the least.
If you plan to go in the coming year—and you should if you love both great opera and awesome scenery in a relaxed atmosphere—inquire and book now. In the entire time we were there, we did not see, hear, or meet any other U.S. visitors. Why aren’t they there? I don’t know. Why should they go there this year? Because it is fabulous, and the Los Angeles Opera will be there.
The opera-going experience in Savonlinna was not only memorable, it was a marvel. An acoustic impression of each of the 2,260 seats was modeled on a computer to determine the canopy’s precise effect. The sound was so intimate that it seemed as if each singer’s voice was directed to me alone. The only other sounds I heard besides the singers and the orchestra during each performance were occasional raindrops (it rained both nights) and the swallows, so enchanted by the glorious sounds that they sang along.
There are no words to adequately describe what it is like to enjoy great opera in a medieval castle courtyard.
Between performances, visitors should take a daytime tour of the castle. They can also travel 22 kilometers east to see the world’s largest wooden church at Kerimaki, take a boat cruise (three steamboats and 10 motorboats ply the lakes), browse the surprisingly upscale open air market at the harbor, or visit some of the eclectic museums in and around Savonlinna.
The place to stay (if you can afford it) is the more than 100-year-old Casino Spa Hotel, where guests can enjoy spa treatments, a water cascade massage, counter-current swimming, saunas, or a Turkish bath (but no gambling). When I asked about other viable places to stay in the area, the man at the Casino’s desk said, “Only the Seurahuone.”
Book either of these hotels or one of the other hotels, inns, or lakeside cabins in or near Savonlinna. Nearby farms also accommodate visitors. Book early.