Sallinen: The Palace

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Sallinen
LABELS: Arthaus Musik
ALBUM TITLE: The Palace
WORKS: The Palace
PERFORMER: Veijo Varpio, Jaana Mäntynen, Saui Tiilikainen, Tom Krause; Savonlinna Opera Festival Chorus & Orchestra/Okko Kamu; dir. Kalle Holmberg (Savonlinna, 1995)
CATALOGUE NO: 102 091
This performance was filmed

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during the opera’s premiere run at

Savonlinna in 1995. Though the

DVD is very welcome it confirms

the feeling I had then that The

Palace – which tells the story of a

third-world dictator losing control

– is slightly tangential to the rest

of the Sallinen’s output. Comedy

is the hardest thing to bring off

operatically, and Kalle Holmberg’s

sterile staging is little help. On the

plus side, the filming compensates

for the original production’s lack of

intimacy, with camera-work that

makes the most of a lively cast.

Even the catchy score, a sort of

Sondheim meets Shostakovich,

stands slightly apart from most of

Sallinen’s music, but under Okko

Kamu’s committed baton the strong

singers make an attractive case for

it. It’s hard to feel much for the

characters in a plot based somewhat

clumsily on Mozart’s Entführung and

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Emperor

(itself a black comedy retailing the last

days of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile

Selassie’s court), yet there are some

very involving performances, not least

from the soprano Jäana Mantynen

as a poised Constance and the tenor

Sauli Tiilikainen as the seducer and

usurper Valmonte. The extras may

not give as full a picture of Savonlinna

or Sallinen as they seem to promise,

but they include some fascinating

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footage. John Allison