On Wednesday, in the auditorium hall of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, classical music fans will be waiting for the performance of acclaimed Finish soprano Riikka Hakola.
This will be Hakola’s first ever performance in the Mediterranean city and second in Egypt following her performance with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ahmed El-Saedi, in an evening that included the Luonnotar, Op 70, a tone-poem for soprano and orchestra by Jean Sibelius, the world acknowledged Finnish composer of the early 20th century. The concert took place at the Cairo Opera House on Saturday, 5 December.
“I think that the audience for classical music is not very large, but I also have to say that the tickets for the concert were sold out, so there is an audience who loves classical music, or who wishes to learn about classical music,” Hakola told Ahram Online following her Saturday performance.
“Classical music has been quite challenged, especially in places around the world where it is not so easy to introduce people to it. Even in places like Finland, for example, where children as early as the age of four come to learn about classical music and to play instruments, there is the challenge of more modern types of music, from Rock n' Roll to techno,” she argued.
Hakola added that musicians have to continue playing music to keep people coming to listen. “As we go around singing high and low, people are relating to the music, and I think they become able to enjoy this wide palette of colours that classical music has to offer,” she said.
And in the process of enjoying music, Hakola added, people are also able to heal grievances, both spiritual and physical.
“Music does have a healing effect. Not just soothing, but in fact healing. This is for people with grave illnesses, as for children with psychological woes,” Hakola said, recalling the account of a singer who had suffered a stroke that compromised significantly her speaking abilities but who managed to make an exceptional recovery because “she was always still singing. She could not talk, but she could sing, and she kept on singing until she was talking again.”
“Music showers our souls. It gives us a new energy. It helps us to find the beautiful things in life around us,” Hakola said.
And this is why musicians and singers — and for that matter dancers, because she believes that dance is a twin to music — are needed all over the world, especially in places of conflict.
Performing for people in torment could give tools for these people to better cope with their ordeals. And when performing for a specific cause, as Hakola has often done, there are fund-raising possibilities to help people in distress.
Hakola is convinced that one is never too old to learn how to play music — especially if one enjoys music.
“Of course, there is an age for one to learn to be a professional musician, but one can always learn to play music therapeutically. It heals anger and hatred. It brings people together, for sure,” she said.
“In Brazil, a few years ago, the state endorsed a big project that was made to get people to come close to, and together through, music. Some learned to play and some learned to sing, and many more came together in harmony,” she said.
Hakola is certain that the poorer and more challenged people need more music than the privileged.
“In Finland, during the economic depression in the early decades of last century, there were more music performances and more and more people were going to the public libraries to borrow books. This helped people to stay happy. This shows that you don’t necessarily need lots of money to be happy, and that happiness could very well be found in the very simple things,” she argued.
Hakola is someone with great international attributes and her repertoire includes some 50 major roles, including Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, Micaëla in Bizet’s Carmen, Natasha in Prokofiev’s War and Peace, an opera based on Tolstoy’s novel. She has performed on many of the world’s most famous stages, including in the Middle East. Her performance with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra was very well received.
Hakola had also been helping with teaching students of music all over the world, and she "would love to come and teach here in Egypt,” possibly as a part of the Finnish-Egyptian Bridge, a project whereby talented Egyptian musicians are granted support to pursue their careers.
On 9 December, Hakola will sing during the Finnish Musical Night at the Biblotheca Alexndrina in Alexandria.
She will be joined by prominent Egyptian tenor Ragaa Eldin, along with Finnish pianist Ilkka Paananen. Ragaa Eldin benefited from the Finnish-Egyptian Bridge as a participant for a number of years.
Wednesday, 9 December, 7pm
Auditorium Hall, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria
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