Prototypes of life
The question asked is the theme for the 2012 festival. I cannot give an answer. In fact, I don’t believe that something like the Helsinki Festival, which is the most extensive multi-art festival in Scandinavia if not in northern Europe, can have an all-embracing theme. Or better still, it does have a theme: the world.
Every year the festival casts its nets into the stream of time, and every year it catches strange and enchanting creatures. What do these artists, ensembles and their works tell us? Something about diversity for sure. Never before has the humankind been in a situation in which the world is so manifold and complex. We have more detailed knowledge of our past than ever before. The present-day edges into our consciousness from all directions. And the future is present as a source of incertainty. How can we cope with all this?
This is where art comes to rescue. Art makes prototypes of thinking, experiencing and living; it models life. This is a way for us to participate in altering our environment without taking risks. If the model does not work, no worries; then it is just not worth putting into production. All of us together as part of a community, as partners of life, make the decision. Join in. The festival is open and accessible.
Director, Helsinki Festival
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.