Kokkonen: The Last Temptations

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LABELS: Finlandia
WORKS: The Last Temptations
PERFORMER: Martti Talvela, Ritva Auvinen, Seppo Ruohonen, Matti Lehtinen; Savonlinna Opera Festival Chorus & Orchestra/Ulf Söderblom
CATALOGUE NO: 1576-51104-2 AAD
This is a welcome reissue on CD of Finlandia’s recording of Kokkonen’s striking 1975 opera The Last Temptations, in which the 19th-century Christian revivalist Paavo Ruotsalainen reviews his life from his deathbed in a series of flashbacks, trying to reconcile the public and private, and his spiritual calling with the harsh realities of the life to which he leaves his wife and children. Musically, it is both inventive and approachable, many of its harmonies deriving from – and finally resolving in – Paavo’s simple hymn. Kokkonen’s word-setting is a model of fluidity. What makes the recording so memorable is Martti Talvela’s imposing and subtle performance as Paavo (a role he created), giving depth and clarity to the opera’s emotional centre. William Humphreys-Jones