Helsinki Festival 2019 to explore the relationship between art, technology and well-being


The festival will start with the 30th anniversary of the Night of the Arts 15.8.

Helsinki Festival, the largest multi arts festival in the Nordics, will explore the relationship between art, technology and well-being in its 2019 edition. Held between 15 August and 1 September, the festival will feature a sleepover in the Huvila Festival Tent accompanied by Max Richter’s Sleep and new ambient sound and light artworks in the transportation hubs where people enter the city. Helsinki Festival will begin with the 30th anniversary of the Night of the Arts, where a Robot choir will be the opening act for an over 2000 strong human choir. Overall the Helsinki Festival programme will include nine world premieres by international and domestic artists and collectives. The majority of these premiered artworks will be freely accessible to audiences around the city.

Helsinki Music Centre will host The English Concert, one of the leading baroque music orchestras and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra will present a new, visually-stunning interpretation of the iconic tale of Faust, combining music and performing arts. Star performers on the Huvila Festival Tent stage include Australian artist Courtney Barnett and Buena Vista Social Club superstar Omara Portuondo. The Helsinki Festival programme also contains world-class modern dance in the form of Gisèle Vienne’s Crowd and William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance.

City events and Night of the Arts

ENTER HELSINKI will adorn entry points to the city with installations by Jon Hopkins, Meeri Koutaniemi and Timo Kaukolampi

ENTER HELSINKI will introduce new ambient sound and light artworks into the flow of human traffic. During the festival, the Central Railway Station and the West Terminal of the Port of Helsinki, among others, will host installations created by Grammy award-nominated electronic music artist Jon Hopkins, audiovisual designer Ville Hyvönen, photographer Meeri Koutaniemi and musician Sami Yaffa, as well as musician-producer Timo Kaukolampi and lighting designer Jenni Pystynen.

The English Architects of Air collective’s Arboria provides a relaxing breathing space in the hubbub of the city. Inspired by the forms of the forest, the inflatable structure will be erected on the Night of the Arts and will remain in front of Helsinki Central Library for ten days. Arboria will house a programme realised together with our Helsinki Festival partner festivals.

Night of the Arts celebrates its 30th anniversary during the opening night of Helsinki Festival by joining forces with the 25-year-old Art goes Kapakka festival. To mark the occasion, the traditional Tour of Choirs at Senate Square will an artificial opening act, a Robot choir, a singing machine intelligence created by Tytti Arola and Counterpoint.  

Huvila Festival Tent

Max Richter’s 8-hour piece brings sleepers together

The first weekend at Huvila Festival Tent kicks off with a sleepover party. The ambitious eight-and-a-half-hour long Sleep by acclaimed contemporary composer Max Richter is an ethereal piece composed to the cycles of sleep. Sleep will be experienced overnight in beds inside Huvila Festival Tent and in tents located in Tokoinranta on the Helsinki shoreline.

Australian artist Courtney Barnett is bringing her timeless indie rock and relatable commentary on everyday life to Finland and the Huvila Festival Tent. Making her long-awaited return to Helsinki is the singer-songwriter and guitar talent Anna Calvi. Stretching the boundaries of classical music, the contemporary music collective s t a r g a z e will visit Huvila for three nights: together with the Austrian artist Soap&Skin, with the Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan and as part of a tribute concert playing new versions of Björk’s Debut and David Bowie’s Blackstar.

Genre boundaries are also broken at Huvila by the Swedish multi-instrumentalist Loney Dear and one of the most sought-after artists in contemporary British music, Anna Meredith, uniquely combining acoustic and electronic ingredients. Making the trip from Iceland to Huvila is the incredibly popular folk artist Ásgeir, who has been compared to the likes of Bon Iver and Anohni.

Top names in world music on the Huvila stage include Buena Vista Social Club star Omara Portuondo, who has been preaching the gospel of Cuban music for over half a century, as well as Benin International Musical and Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble, who mix traditional Beninese rhythms, afro beat and fusion jazz. Huvila receives its share of tight funk from the California group Orgone, blues rock from the Texas-born Doyle Bramhall II, who has worked with the likes of Eric Clapton and Roger Waters, and soulful retro pop from former Massive Attack tour vocalist, the British Yola.

The Finnish star line-up at Huvila includes Vesala, solo album debutant Ellips, Ricky-Tick Big Band & Julkinen Sana, as well as Kingston Wall by JJylli, Kuoppis and VHB, who round off their sold-out tour at Tokoinranta. UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra will perform with jazz and soul singer Lizz Wright, and the rap collective D.R.E.A.M.G.I.R.L.S. will close their summer at Huvila. The highlight of the Huvila family day is the Gigglebug children’s disco.

Classical music

Messiah receives a famed interpretation, and The Carnival of the Animals explores our relationship with nature

Georg Friedrich Händel’s Messiah will receive an internationally-acclaimed interpretation at Helsinki Festival when one of the leading baroque music orchestras for over 40 years, The English Concert and Choir, comes to Helsinki. The Helsinki Music Centre audience will finally get to hear the performance of Arnold Schönberg’s massive work Gurrelieder, composed for an expanded orchestra, a male choir and mixed choir, five vocals soloists and a narrator. Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Lahti Symphony Orchestra will be conducted by Susanna Mälkki.

The iconic tale of Faust will receive a new, modern interpretation in the grand work Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, combining the music of Robert Schumann, performing arts and strong visual aspects. The Radio Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Hannu Lintu, and the stage realisation is directed by Jussi Nikkilä.

Interpreted by Pekka Kuusisto and other front-row Finnish performers, The Carnival of the Animals paints a stirring picture of modern man’s relationship with nature. Realised in co-operation with Greenpeace, the show places the beloved fantasy suite composed by Camille Saint-Saëns in the 19th century into a new, thought-provoking context. Receiving its Finnish premiere at Helsinki Festival, RING for children will transform Richard Wagner’s massive opera cycle into an experience for the whole family.

The electroacoustic work UXO, composed by Walter Sallinen and conducted by Taavi Oramo, will be  experienced in total darkness. The great symphonic journey will take the audience from the beginning of the universe to its end in the company of the Vantaa Pops Orchestra, conducted by Dalia Stasevska, with Esko Valtaoja and Ringa Manner as well as Pyhimys and Saimaa.

Performing arts

Premieres of Finnish modern circus and fresh contemporary dance from around the world

William Forsythe, one of the foremost choreographers of his generation, brings his A Quiet Evening of Dance to Finland for the first time at Helsinki Festival. Having premiered at Sadler’s Wells in London, this unusual configuration of new and existing work is designed to be listened to as well as observed. Pulsating to the beat of electronic music, the Franco-Austrian Gisèle Vienne’s hypnotic Crowd explores rave parties as a modern ritual.

F/Symposium is a week-long event featuring performances, sound, discussion and podcasts at the Helsinki Central Library Oodi as a means of showcasing some of the most interesting thinkers of today as they imagine future horizons. The working group includes actor-director Anna Paavilainen and choreographer Sonya Lindfors among other.

Helsinki Festival will also feature three premieres of works from the field of contemporary circus. Kalle Nio’s The Green combines 19th century stage magic techniques with the latest video and sound technology. There’s no room for my wings, by the Sivuhenkilöt (“Sidekicks”) working group, discusses experiences of exclusion through the means of aerial acrobatics, physical theatre, laughter and shame. Atlas is a family-friendly journey from space into the depths of the ocean, combining Ilona Jäntti’s aerial acrobatics with Tuula Jeker‘s projections.

Visual arts

Ugo Rondinone’s hyperrealistic clowns take over Kunsthalle Helsinki

Swiss-born Ugo Rondinone’s first solo exhibition in Finland opens at Kunsthalle Helsinki during Helsinki Festival. The colourful exhibition’s central piece is the meditative Vocabulary of Solitude installation, consisting of hyperrealistic clown figures in different poses.

The Carousel exhibition, on display at the Finnish Painters’ Union’s tm•gallery, questions the traditional methods of curation by selecting 59 artists through a random lottery for the daily-changing exhibition.

Micro-organisms that are invisible to the naked eye are the stars at Levyhalli in Suomenlinna, as their life is captured through a light microscope and projected onto a big screen in Reclaiming Vision by Marjolijn Dijkman and Toril Johannessen.

The Kino Regina cinema screens a retrospective of the Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda and two cine-concerts: female choir Philomela brings to life the silent film Nuori luotsi, and Children’s Cinema Sunday plays Laurel and Hardy.