The Big Story
I suspect, by now, it would be fair to say that the world has truly turned.
The agenda is now driven, not by the establishment but by the grassroots, by a generation for whom the culture of the internet is as natural as breathing. Access to limitless information is now constantly within our reach and traditional values are under challenge. This is evident everywhere: within the family, in schools, across politics and the business sector, in Finland and around the world.
The change is reflected in the arts, too – of course, where else? It is the task of art and culture, after all, to generate prototypes for new value hierarchies and fresh ways of thinking. But how exactly is that change reflected? That is the question we at Helsinki Festival are asking in 2014.
The festival will have a visible presence throughout the city centre as always. This time, however, we are homing in on the nation’s very nerve centre, the square between Helsinki Music Centre and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and the area in front of the Finnish parliament. Here, we will build a park dedicated to art and culture. It is a meeting place for the whole city, residents and visitors alike, and a veritable haven of freedom and whimsy. We have called the park KoeHelsinki, and it will offer visitors circus fun, cinema picnics, workshops, pretend demonstrations, concerts, debates and more.
We are living in a time of great upheaval. The big pen writes on. The great narrative unfolds itself on the page. Amidst the story, the little people are getting lost. The story has no name, no beginning and no end. The thematic complexities are seemingly endless. What could my role be within all of this? We need art more than ever. Art helps us to understand what is going on.
I am delighted to welcome you to this year’s Helsinki Festival. Make yourself part of the story.
Erik Söderblom, b.1958 in Helsinki, studied piano and cello since childhood. After finishing school he studied philosophy and arts at Helsinki University. He lived some time in London, and in the early eighties went to Munich, where he studied opera directing with August Everding at the Hochshule für Musik. From 1982 to 1985 he conducted the Chamber Strings of Helsinki-ensemble. At the same time he continued his studies at the Theatre Academy of Helsinki. He graduated from the directors’ class in 1987.
Between 1988 and 1990 Söderblom was director of Turku City Theatre. In 1990 he – together with a group of young actors, directors, writers and set designers of his generation – founded the Q-teatteri in Helsinki. With this ensemble he made an acknowledged series of directions of both newly written Finnish texts and classical texts such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky´s Notes from Underground, William Shakespeare´s Hamlet and Twelfth Night and Leo Tolstoy´s War and Peace. All these productions have been shown on festivals in Finland and abroad. Today Q-teatteri is recognized as one of the artistically leading ensembles in Finland.
Söderblom was chairman of the board and artistic leader of Q-teatteri between 1996-2002. On his initiative Q-teatteri founded the Baltic Circle, a network for free theatre groups around the Baltic Sea. Q-teatteri also hosts the important international Baltic Circle theatre festival. Söderblom was the first artistic leader of this festival.
Alongside with his work with Q-teatteri, Söderblom has directed in theatres around Finland and abroad. The best known of his international work is the prize-winning staging of Jouko Turkka´s play Connecting People in Von Krahli -theater in Tallinn.
In recent years he has returned to opera and is considered to be a leading Finnish opera director. He has directed performances such as the prize-winning productions of Mozart´s Entführung aus dem Serail and Le Nozze di Figaro at Pori Opera and the huge outdoor performance of Wagner´s Der fliegende Holländer in Turku.
Söderblom has been praised for his directions of contemporary opera. As a trained musician he has the ability to read also intricate new music scores and has directed the world premieres of several Finnish operas such as Tapio Tuomela´s Mothers and Daughters, Lars Karlsson´s Rödhamn and Mikko Heiniö´s The Hour of the Serpent, all at the Finnish National opera and Veli-Matti Puumala´s Anna Liisa during the Helsinki Festival 2008
Among Söderblom´s recent works is the Finnish opera “Eerik XIV” by the composer Mikko Heiniö and writer Juha Siltanen for the Turku2011 – European Capital of Culture.
Erik Söderblom´s role in Finnish theatre as an important pedagogue is worth mentioning. In the years 1998-2002 Söderblom was leading a famous music theatre class at Turku Polytechnic. Between 2001 and 2009 he was a Professor of acting at the Helsinki Theatre Academy.
He is the director of Helsinki Festival since 2009.