”I wouldn’t run a step if I could fly.”

Parts of the opera:
Paavo the Great
Great run
Great sleep

PAAVO THE GREAT opera was a daring project performed at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium under the open sky in August 2000, when the City of Helsinki celebrated its European Capital of Culture. It was produced by the Helsinki City Theatre.

In the opera, Paavo Nurmi, who has become a world-renowned runner, is torn between running for money or whether he should move into the house building business. Kekkonen opens the 1940 Olympics, where Paavo Nurmi brings an Olympic torch through the marathon gate. However, events are getting out of hand, the world is on fire and the threat of war is flooding the sports field.

For myself as a costume designer and for the whole costume deigning department, the opera “Paavo The Great” was a huge feat. In the end, no one knew exactly how big the crowd was at the stadium during the mass scenes, but the estimate was about 700-800 people.

The European TV channel Arte broadcasted Helsinki’s Paavo Nurmi opera in its entirety as a pre-program for the Sydney Olympics, with an audience of up to 100 million. The BBC and the German TV companies were also interested in the opera about Paavo Nurmi’s life.

Cast: Gabriel Suovanen (Paavo Nurmi), Johanna Rusanen (wife), Seppo Ruohonen (Kekkonen), Eeva-Liisa Saarinen, Hannu-Pekka Björkman, Oskari Katajisto, Riitta Havukainen, Riikka Korppi-Tommola, Matti Rasila, Sirkka Parviainen, Raija Regnell, Petri Bäckström and Jussi Madekivi.

Performances at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium on the 11th and 12th of August, 2000.

Scripting: Paavo Haavikko
Composer: Tuomas Kantelinen
Directed By: Kalle Holmberg
Conductor: Markus Lehtinen

Dramaturgy: Vesa-Tapio Valo
Choreography: Minna Vainikainen
Lighting Design: Juha Westman
Sound Design: Antti Murto
Costume Design: Riitta Riihonen (Rask)
Costume Assistant: Elina Kolehmainen
Set Design: Kati Lukka

Jyväskylä Symphony, Vantaa Opera and Opera Orchestra, Kaarti Players and Finnish Philharmonic Choir

Photos: Helsinki City Theater / Eva Persson

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