Latvian composer's grand Tree Opera to premiere in Finland

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Latvian artists spearheaded by composer Anna Ķirse are going to Finland on an exchange of tree-hugging mores for which the two countries are known. 

That is to say that a number of musicians, literati, and architects are collaborating on a modern Tree Opera, to premiere in Hyrynsalmi, central Finland on August 17–18 this year. 

The production, a follow-up of a 2016 performance at the Sansusī festival in Latvia, explores the relationship between man and nature.

After a Finnish producer heard part one of the Tree Opera, he approached Ķirse with an offer to stage it in Finland. But Ķirse offered writing a new opera, and this time it'll be on a grander scale, featuring eight instrumentalists, as well as eight singers from the Chamber Orchestra and the Latvian Radio choir.

It is based on Ķirse's music with a libretto inspired by German forester Peter Wohlleben's popular book, The Hidden Life of Trees. The book explores the surprisingly close communications between trees and even trees and fungi found on tree roots. 

Anna Ķirse finds this moving as she says she's always felt very close to nature and forests in particular. 

"Another topic that inspired me was that trees live in a completely different time zone from humans. For example, one of the oldest trees in the world is a fir tree in Sweden, older than 9,500 years. It's an unimaginable number. And it makes me think of eternity, endlessness, of timelessness," she told Latvian Radio's Baiba Kušķe. 

Conductor Artūrs Gailis, also part of the creative team, says Ķirse is able to be very precise about these topics using the language of music. 

"This music creates visual scenes. It depicts communication between tree trunks, fungi or other wonders of nature. I think it's a magical theme. I think nature is magic, and I think Anna has been able to put this into music very well," he said.

The opera will take place in the Hyrynsalmi region in Finland, at an ancient forest. Visitors will have to walk to the location, which was picked by the artists themselves, for about a quarter hour. 

The audience will be seated on a hill, on a natural amphitheater of sorts, Ķirse revealed. 

Meanwhile architect Austris Mailītis and his team are creating a biodegradable open-air stage, i.e. it will slowly recede into the forest following the performance. 

What's more, there are climbers involved in the project as well, meaning vertiginous heights will be involved. 

The Tree Opera premieres August 17–18 but it is planned that it'll be staged in other European forests as well – but it's not clear as of yet whether it'll come to Ķirse's native Latvia as well. 

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