The largest arts gathering in Finland, Helsinki Festival (August 16 through September 1) invites spectators to indulge in the summer spirit one last time before autumn sets in.
Kicking off this year’s fun is Art Goes Kapakka, a show bringing the best in poetry, comedy and live music to a place where people can appreciate them most — the pub, of course. From August 15 through 24, 33 area bars and restaurants will host more than 300 events on their premises. Check out the full program here.
After those experiences, prepare yourselves for surrealism at its weirdest with umbrellas turning into monsters and candles that will not be snuffed in James Thiérrée: Raoul, a silent stage performance about a shipwrecked adventurer in search of himself. Son of performers extrordinaire Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée (and the grandson of Hollywood legend Charlie Chaplin), Thiérrée concocts a masterful blend of circus, mime, dance and music at the Finnish National Opera House on August 16 and 17.
The kitchen is explored in Ein.Küchen.Bau – Kitchen Works, an art-installation-meets-stage production where a fitted kitchen is built and food preparation takes place with optimal efficiency and hilarity. This two-part, two-man performance will take place in English and German with English surtitles at Korjaamo’s Theatre Stage on August 16 through 18.
At the same venue on August 17 and 18, Grind comes to life in the form of contemporary dance, light and sound utilizing the talents of choreographer/dancer Jefta van Dinther, lighting designer Minna Tiikkainen and sound designer David Kiers, whose rigorous approach to movement is meticulously staged to culminate in a gripping transformation of the audience’s sense of reality.
And while we’re on the subject of dance, K.Kvarnström & Co perform come back (to me), igniting all-too-memorable emotions of longing and heartbreak in a color palette that stretches from gray to jet black despair at the Alexander Theatre on August 29 and 30.
In the off chance you ever wondered what it felt like to sit on the floor with no shoes on while listening to a classical concert, the Helsinki Festival has just the thing for you. The unique Reddress set-up was designed by Aamu Song for exactly this purpose. Here, the singer’s the centerpiece and the audience sits around the performer, enveloped in red cloth spread out in a circle, almost like an array of red sleeping bags. Listen to Ratkje & Brandtsegg’s fascinating vocal improvisation (August 17), the innovative choir Grex Musicus & Marjukka Riihimaki (August 18), the vocals and violin pairing of Iva Bittová (August 20) or any of the other one-of-a-kind Reddress performances at the Pannuhalli at the Cable Factory.
Though Philip Glass’ solo piano recital and accompanying retrospective concert from his Ensemble are sold out at the Huvila Tent, a host of other events at the temporary venue still has tickets available, including the inimitable Yoko Ono (August 18 and 19), verbal acrobat Anthony Joseph & the Spasm Band (August 16), charming singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas (August 23) and popular Finnish pop act Antti Tuisku (August 25).
The festival culminates in one hard thrust of culture on The Night of the Arts on August 22 — even though more than a week’s worth of excitement remains. But on this special evening, the already-vibrant city ignites in a plethora of celebratory culture on the streets at venues everywhere, from circus troupes in the middle of city parks to Bollywood dance classes on corners. Wherever you look, you’ll find something spectacular going on. But then again, the same thing can pretty much go for the entire run of Helsinki Festival.