Jean Sibelius (1865-1857): Opera and the Kalevala

            Recognized as Finland’s greatest composer, Jean Sibelius’ compositions ranged from symphonic works, concertos, string quartets, to art song. With over 100 art songs, the majority of Sibelius’s works for solo voice were set in Swedish with poems by famous poets including Runeberg, Rydberg, and Fröding. Despite the breadth of his vocal compositions, today the most frequently performed works of Sibelius are instrumental works such as Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47; Finlandia, Op. 26; Karelia Suites, Op. 1; and Symphony No. 5, Op. 82. Sibelius composed one opera; a Swedish opera titled Jungrun in tornet (The Maiden in the Tower). This 40-minute one act opera premiered in concert version in 1896. Sibelius began composing one other opera three years prior in 1893, which was based on text from the Finnish epic, the Kalevala. However, Sibelius abandoned his project and never completed his opera entitled, Veneen luominen (The Building of the Boat). Sibelius repurposed material from the incomplete opera in his four-movement symphonic tone poem, Lemminkäinen Suites, Op. 22 (1896).*

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