OP0271. THOMAS (Rautavarra), recorded 1986, w.Pekka Haapasalo Cond. Savonlinna Festival Opera Choir, Joensuu City Orchestra, Joensuu Music School Choir; Jorma Hynninen, Peter Lindroos, Marko Putkonen, Anssi Hirvonen, Hannu Sokka, Jaakko Hietikko, Antti Suhonen, Matti Piipponen, Sini Rautavaara & Anitta Juhala-Jolkkonen. (Austria) 2-Ondine ODE 704, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy!
“Completing a tenth opera is an achievement for any composer, and Einojuhani Rautavaara reached this mark in the 1990s, when he was in his sixties. Of the operas he composed, which include APOLLO JA MARSYAS (1970), VINCENT (1986-1987), AURINGON TALO (1990), TIETÄJIEN LAHJA (1993-1995), ALEKSIS KIVI (1995-1996), and THOMAS (1982-1985), the latter has become one of his best known. Written with the power of a sacred oratorio, the work focuses on the life of Bishop Tuomas, also known as Dominus Thomas episcopus Finlandiae, of the mid-thirteenth century. Thomas, a well-remembered historic Finnish figure, was probably the first person to have seen the potential to transform Finland and the Finns into a nation.
The project of composing the opera and its libretto was appointed to Rautavaara, in 1982, by baritone Jorma Hynninen, who was acting as the artistic director of the 1985 Joensuu Song Festival. As it had become clear that the Festival would be the main arena for celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Finnish national epic, the KALEVALA, Hynninen chose to enhance the program with an opera. At the time Rautavaara accepted the project, he had finished working on ANGELS AND VISITATIONS (1978) and the double bass concerto ANGEL OF DUSK (1980), which together with his Fifth Symphony of 1985 became known as his ‘angel trilogy’. At this time he was creating orchestral works which contained dense waves of quickly repeated figures, multi-layered textures, and lyrical-nostalgic homophony in the upper register. Shortly before writing his ‘angel trilogy’, Rautavaara was working on synthesizing modernism, traditional techniques, birdsong, aleatory counterpoint, jazz, and archaic liturgical chant in various combinations in his compositions. Two successful examples include MARJATTA MATALA NEITI (1975) and RUNO 42: SAMMON RYÖSTÖ (1974). In a way, both of the pieces prepared Rautavaara for his work on THOMAS, as they were also based on the KALEVALA. The dramatic scenario for THOMAS developed simultaneously as the musical accompaniment was composed, while the libretto, at times, was written after the music was in place.
The plot of the opera THOMAS is based on the goals of the main character, Thomas, to first overthrow the Eastern Pope in the infidel city of Novgorod, then to create an independent papal state in Finland, and eventually become the ruler. The outcome of the attack was a failure that resulted in the deaths of nearly all of the men on the crusading side. In the opera, Thomas' goals were not achieved prior to his condemnation, but ultimately, in the years which followed his death, the age-old Kalevala shamanist culture and the sprouting Christian culture merge and reshape Finnish identity and nationality. Rautavaara allowed the overlapping tonal systems of the opera, which include diatonic, dodecaphonic, free atonality, and synthetic-modal, to represent the fusion of the two cultures. Even though THOMAS has not achieved worldwide recognition and fame, it occupies a significant place among Finland's nationalistic compositions and within Rautavaara's career.”
- Meredith Gailey, allmusic.com