WORKS: The Palace
PERFORMER: Veiji Varpio, Jaana Mäntynen, Sauli Tiilikainen, Jorma Silvasti, Tom Krause, Ritva-Liisa Korhonen; Savonlinna Opera Festival Chorus & Orchestra/Okku Kamu
CATALOGUE NO: 3-6465-2
This much-awaited issue of Sallinen’s fifth opera, The Palace, recorded at the work’s premiere at the 1995 Savonlinna Opera Festival, provides a welcome opportunity to reappraise a score which at the time received less than rapturous acclaim.
Without the distraction of a weak production, all the nuances of the ingenious libretto and the fluency of Sallinen’s eclectic style – late Romantic, oriental and jazzy – are revealed. Admirers of Sallinen’s previous operas, which drew on Finnish legend, might nonetheless be disappointed. Here the composer frequently makes use of the musical vocabulary of lightweight show numbers to satirise life within the Palace, the centre of a totalitarian state. The story revolves around Valmonte, an outsider, who eventually disposes of the King by tempting Constance, the King’s consort and indispensable mouthpiece, to abandon her sterile role in the Palace for the strange and unknown outside world. The King himself is finally imprisoned as a beggar.
From a variable cast, both Jaana Mäntynen as Constance and Ritva-Liisa Korhonen as Kitty deserve special mention, and the orchestra delivers a first-rate performance under Okku Kamu. Deborah Calland