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Architectural Opera for Children

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Ever been to children’s architectural opera? Yesterday we did. The performance “Rakennetaan kaupunki!” (Building the city!), by 4th graders of Helsinki’s Kaisaniemi Primary school at the Museum of Finnish Architecture, was a heart-warming experience.

This mini-opera, premiered in March as part of Helsinki’s program as World Design Capital, was based on Paul Hindemith’s “Wir Bauen Eine Stadt” from 1930, which had earlier been performed in Finnish only in 1934. The Kaisaniemi pupils had modified and updated the original libretto and created the stage set as their vision of Helsinki in the future.

The story starts in year 2062 in Helsinki. A group of children, tired of being ruled by adults who don’t have time to listen to them, decide to build their own city. The idea sounds great, but it also raises some concerns, like “who will take care of us” and “who’s going to give orders in the city.”

In the end, the solutions are quite simple. First comes the baker who’ll feed the children. Then comes the plumber and installs the toilets. Then comes the dentist to take care of the children’s teeth. They are all, of course, children, just like the policeman and the mayor. All the houses are rich in colors, there are lots of places where to play, and no boring adults around.

Even some exciting new instruments had been built for the occasion, such as the human-size “clockwork” by architect and musician Tuomas Toivonen. The opera, directed by Jorge Raedó, was not only an enchanting performance with its magical melodies skillfully interpreted by the 10-year-olds, but also an inspiring example of children’s musical and architectural education combined.

Unfortunately, Saturday’s shows were the only ones for the public. Judging by the quality and the young performers’ enthusiasm, perhaps the show could continue in new locations, even on a bigger stage?

One Response

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