TALLINN - The Estonian National Opera is on the eve of its centennial anniversary 's and the staff can hardly wait. The 99th season of the opera theater is full of exciting productions and imaginative events. And for the first time in recent memory, everything is actually ready on time.
The season kicks off on Sept. 10 (with a repeat the next night) with the premiere of "Mare and her Son," a joint venture between the national opera houses of Estonia and Finland. Written by Tauno Pylkkanen, it is set in Viljandi, 1343, where the title character has lost six of her sons in the struggle against the German knights and is determined not to lose Imanti, her last. The show will be recorded for distribution on audio CD.
On Oct. 8, the Rocca Al Mare tennis hall will be transformed into an opera house with a new rendition of the classic "Aida," featuring a stellar cast of performers from the U.S.A., Ukraine and the great Russian theaters 's the Bolshoi in Moscow and the Marian Theater in St. Petersburg 's with Sweden's Marianne Morck directing.
Three short performances come together on Nov. 18, a night no ballet lover should miss. The show starts with Igor Stravinsky's "The Firebird," choreographed by Hungarian Attila Egerhazi with artwork by Andrea T. Haamer, who also worked on Jorma Elo's "Red With Me." The evening will conclude with Tiit Harm's "Bolero."
The theater also has some local flavor this season with a production of "Barbara von Tisenhausen," composed by Estonia's own Eduard Tubin, with a libretto by Jaan Kross based on Ain Kallas' novel of the same name 's the story of a 16th century German-Estonian woman condemned for her love of a man whom her family could not accept.
But there's a lot, lot more than this. Check out the Estonian National Opera Web site at www.opera.ee for full details of the season's program.
2004 is the year of the young audience at the National Opera, and in a decision worthy of its own reality show, the theater will spend the winter producing "Little Napoleon" - created exclusively by young blood and employing an amateur for the male lead.
On Oct. 2, public auditions will be held to find a teenager who is willing to try his luck on the big stage, and, of course, able to carry a tune. Other new events include a fair thrown for the Tallinn townsfolk on Sept. 18 in the square behind the Estonia Thetaer building, and an opportunity to spend an hour before the start of each show discussing it with the director 's though tickets for these sessions are limited to 20 per event.
And for the first time in over half a decade, the stage of the National Opera will host a theater performance. "The Theater Romance" spans 11 years of the institution's early history, beginning in 1913 and ending in 1924; this period includes some fascinating intrigues and gossip, as well as events of lesser importance like WWI and the country's declaration of independence. Most of December will be occupied by the Christmas Stars festival, and the month will conclude with the annual and unmissable New Year's Eve ball, this time centered on all things Hungarian.
So if you consider yourself a connoisseur of the opera, then don't worry: the 99th season may not quite be the 100th, and the building may only be half way through its 100-million kroon (6.39-million euro) renovation, but there is still a lot there for you to enjoy.