The Finnish National Opera used to be housed in a lovely old 19th Century building on Bulevardi (The Boulevard). Sadly, that building was deemed too small (which it probably was) for the ever-growing insatiable hunger for opera that Finns are known for throughout the civilized world. Famous architects were called to the rescue, and a multi-gazillion Finnmark budget (this was in the Dark Ages before the Euro) was handed to them to ensure that a worthy monument would be erected on Mannerheimintie, the main thoroughfare in Helsinki. As is the wont of mad professors and self-appointed auteurs the world over, the architects set their creative minds free and came up with what can only be described as an overgrown outhouse, fittingly dressed in plain white ceramic tiles. Well, at least they should be cheaper to replace than the Italian marble tiles of Finlandia Hall.
None of this, of course, has much bearing on what goes on inside the building. A while ago, I took the opportunity to attend two operas within a week of each other: La Traviata, and Thaïs.
Here’s the synopsis for La Traviata: girl makes a living selling her virtue and likes to party a lot, boy falls in love with her, boy’s father does not approve, boy renounces her but is immediately overcome with regret as it dawns on him that he loves her, boy goes back to girl who all of a sudden is dying, girl dies, curtains down.
Compare this with the synopsis for Thaïs: girl makes a living selling her virtue and likes to party a lot, boy wants to get a merit badge by spoiling all the fun, boy gets his way but is immediately overcome with regret as it dawns on him that he loves her, boy goes back to girl who all of a sudden is dying, girl dies, curtains down.
Of note, the girl is definitely not a fat lady in either (or, more accurately, a fat lady was not cast as the lead in either of these productions), so the old adage “it ain’t over till the fat lady sings” does not apply. I have not seen any Wagner operas, but I believe they are the source of this observation. In both of these, though, it is definitely over when the lady of the night sings.