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Director's statement

Of the qualities that make us human, the most important perhaps is our ability to put ourselves in another person's place. This capacity for empathy is what art, too, is all about. Art is the brief opportunity to experience the life of another, in another place and in another time.

Never before have we travelled the world in such numbers as now. A tidal wave of exploratory zeal and cultural inquisitiveness carries us by our thousands to ever further and more exotic locations. Finns, traditionally a rather unsociable and taciturn nation, are changing. Our culture has opened up and is now tolerant, welcoming and up for change. This is not an inconsiderable feat and speaks volumes of our national sense of self confidence and our sharp-sighted cultural self-image - both indispensable for success abroad.

At the end of the day, those who shun the other will be shunned in turn.

In art, universals are not arrived at through all-encompassing abstraction but through an acutely observed sense of the local and the particular - one of the key themes for Helsinki Festival in 2011. Many of our performances have arisen as artists have pursued the local, the close and the personal. And yet they manage to address a myriad of shared themes in ways that are accessible to us all. What does all this mean? Perhaps that, we, the human race, regardless of our skin colour or time or place of birth, are essentially very much the same.

Let's be human together.

Erik Söderblom
Director, Helsinki Festival


photo: Sasa Tkalcan



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 upcoming works is the world premiere of still another Finnish opera, "Erik 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