The Finnish Cultural Foundation marked the centenary of the Finnish National Opera by giving schoolchildren a chance to attend a live opera free of charge. The Foundation paid the travelling expenses and tickets for about 6,500 pupils aged thirteen, while the National Opera organised workshop-type training for teachers before the visit. These children represented more than ten per cent of the age cohort.

Schools interested in the opera visit applied to send one bus-load of pupils, and the lucky groups were chosen by lot. Four whole performances were reserved for schools in the spring 2011 season. In addition to these school performances the Foundation reserved 100–200 seats for pupils at twelve regular evening performances spread over the calendar year 2011. The total cost of the project was somewhat over €500 000.

This was also a unique opportunity to acquire data on children’s musical preferences and the reception of the various operas. An online questionnaire was sent to the pupils and teachers, and nearly 1,600 replies were received. The most popular operas among the children were Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Musorgsky’s Boris Godunov, and Jukka Linkola’s Robin Hood, a new opera composed specifically for a young audience. Girls gave overall slightly higher scores than boys. The results also contained a wealth of interesting regional data on how children were exposed to culture in general.

The National Opera’s singers and players greatly enjoyed the youngsters’ enthusiasm and unstinting ovations. Around three quarters of the pupils replied that they could be persuaded to go to the opera again, and 40 per cent said they would do so with pleasure.

Further information:
Schools Take Part in Opera Jubilee (pdf)
(Annual report 2010)

To the Opera! (pdf)
(Annual report 2011)