Hannu Lintu prepares for the final

Hannu Lintu, the Chief conductor of Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducts the final of Mirjam Helin Competition for the second time. Recently he was also appointed as the Chief conductor of the Finnish National Opera, starting in 2022. Here he tells about working in competitions and about his thoughts on opera.

Lintu 2

Hannu Lintu did not catch much sleep on the night before Monday. “I had to simultaneously watch Finland in the ice hockey final, follow the European Parliament election and try to open the scores of the arias.” It is special for a conductor to work in a competition. “You are in a service occupation”, Lintu says. “You have to take care of the customer, and at the same time do what you usually do: beware of the balance and support the soloist. There is a cavalcade of different people onstage, and sometimes it can be hard.”

On the other hand, prestigious competitions feel like a blessing. “Experience shows that talented competitors will easily become future working partners. I am also delighted about the proper rehearsal time we have, including piano rehearsals – often in a competition, you get a weird look if you ask for that.”

Lintu is looking eagerly forward to his time as the Chief Conductor at the National Opera in 2022-2026. “As opera was an important incentive for me to become a conductor, I have been on the lookout for a right opportunity”, Lintu tells. “It is wonderful that the opportunity arose in an opera house that I know and where I have a lot of friends. At the same time, the position gives me a schedule that makes conducting a symphony orchestra abroad possible.”

Lintu also thinks that his personality is especially apt for opera. “I have a certain inner need to exaggerate and dramatize things, to overplay the contrasts. On the other hand, broad experience in symphonic repertoire has given a sense of structure and adjusting the sound.”

The conductor’s love for opera originated in public libraries. “I am positive that without the astonishing collections of my hometown library I would not have gotten as excited about it as a child”, Lintu says. “As soon as my parents had saved some money, we spent the summers at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, listening to Leif [Segerstam]. During my first years in Sibelius Academy, too, I would sit in the library until closing time. Later on, I interrailed to Salzburg, Bayreuth and Verona. When you heard Abbado conduct Elektra [by Strauss] for example, you went: my God! I think someone once said that opera is like an ideology: it does not always materialize.” 

Text: Justus Pitkänen
Image: Heikki Tuuli