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A Finnish musical night

The Pharos Arts Foundation will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius with a song recital featuring the baritone (and Finnish National Opera soloist) Ville Rusanen and pianist Ilkka Paananen on Saturday in Nicosia.

The recital, which is organised in collaboration with the Embassy of Finland in Cyprus and supported by KONE Cyprus, will include songs by Sibelius as well as his lesser-known but equally important contemporary Erkki Melartin.

Sibelius is the only Finnish composer of commanding international stature. The general idiom in Sibelius’ solo songs, mostly settings of poems in Swedish, is universal, international and boldly innovative in terms of harmony and form. The underlying melancholic mood, an inherent feature of the Finnish national style, derives perhaps from a Slavic streak in Sibelius’s persona. The composer’s close identification with the cause of Finnish nationalism, and his highly developed instinct for form, have ensured him an exceptional place in the history of western music.

Finnish National Opera soloist and baritone Rusanen has performed in some of the world’s most important opera houses, including La Scala in Milan, Lyon Opera in France, the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, the ReisOpera in the Netherlands, and the Scottish Opera. In 2013, Ville Rusanen made his debut in Australia with the Sydney Symphony under Vladimir Ashkenazy and his debut in Dublin with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra under Hannu Lintu, in Sibelius’ choral symphony Kullervo. He has also appeared as a soloist in London’s BBC Proms with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vänskä, in the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago, the National Orchestra of Bordeaux in France, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Belgium Liège, amongst others.

At home in Finland, he has been a regular guest at the Finnish National Opera where he has sung a wide repertoire such as Pelléas in Debussy’s Pelléas and Mélisande, Figaro in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Papageno in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Guglielmo in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and the title role in Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Aleksis Kivi. In summer 2014 he made his debut at the Savonlinna Opera Festival as Kimmo in Aulis Sallinen´s Kullervo, and he was subsequently named Artist of the Year 2014 of the Savonlinna Opera Festival.

Rusanen is the First Prize winner of the 2004 Lappeenranta Solo Voice Competition and the First Prize winner of the Erkki Melartin Chamber Music Competition in 2002 (Lied-Duo category).

Pianist Paananen was the winner of the First Prize in the Maj Lind Piano Competition in 1982, and the prize of the Danish Sonning Foundation in 1985. He performs in Finland, throughout Europe, the Far East and the USA. His concert tours as a Lied pianist have taken him to the Lincoln Centre in New York, the Wigmore Hall in London, the Schubertiade Festival in Austria, to Mexico, Chile and the major cities in China. He is known for his work as a Lied pianist with renowned singers such as Jorma Hynninen, Soile Isokoski, Dilber, Elina Garanca, Kaludi Kaludow, Jaakko Kortekangas, Jaakko Ryhänen and Matti Salminen among others. Ilkka Paananen has participated in many productions featuring stage, film and TV, and has an extensive discography.

Sibelius Song Recital
The Pharos Arts Foundation presents a song recital with opera soloist Ville Rusanen. December 19. The Shoe Factory, Nicosia. 8.30pm. €15/10. Tel: 22-663871

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