The plot of the "Jungle Book reimagined" performance takes place in the near future, where a family fleeing their homeland ravaged by climate change becomes separated from each other. Photo: Camilla Greenwell


Helsinki is set to celebrate its vibrant culture with the 2024 Helsinki Festival, scheduled from August 15 to September 1. The festival's program, now finalized, features an exciting mix of performances including a contemporary dance piece by Akram Khan Company, a new concert version of Modest Mussorgsky's opera "Khovanshchina" directed by Esa-Pekka Salonen, and a unique composition by Lauri Porra involving 125 bass instruments.

The festival kicks off with Akram Khan's "Jungle Book reimagined," a modern dance interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic that explores themes of climate change and migration through breathtaking animation and stagecraft. This performance, known for its imaginative approach and relevance to contemporary issues, promises to be a highlight of this year’s international dance offerings.

Esa-Pekka Salonen, recent recipient of the prestigious Polar Music Prize, will lead a nearly 200-musician ensemble in a groundbreaking concert rendition of "Khovanshchina," featuring contributions from the Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Latvian Radio Choir, and the Tapiola Chamber Choir, with bass Mika Kares among the soloists. This monumental production, which integrates electronic music elements crafted by Tuomas Norvio and directed by Gerard McBurney, is set to later travel to the 2025 Salzburg Easter Festival.

Another musical treat will be provided by Iveta Apkalna, one of the leading organists of our time, who will perform at the Music Centre on the new organ. Her program will juxtapose the pulsating modern compositions of Philip Glass with the timeless organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach.

The festival also includes the much-anticipated 35th anniversary of the Night of the Arts, offering free artistic experiences throughout the city. One of the marquee events is Lauri Porra’s "BASSO," a new composition performed by a massive assembly of bass instruments on Senate Square. This free musical experience will involve bass singers, wind players with low-frequency instruments, electric bassists, and percussionists.

On the artistic front, Kevin Abosch’s "AI Helsinki" exhibition at Esplanadi Park will showcase synthetic photographs that dive deep into the essence of Helsinki identity, blending real imagery with AI transformations to create nonexistent yet lifelike portraits of people and places.

The Helsinki Festival not only promises to be a feast for the senses but also aims to raise awareness about the importance of music and the arts in enhancing community well-being and social cohesion. Tickets for the announced concerts and performances are now on sale, ensuring that both locals and visitors can fully experience the creative spirit of Helsinki this summer.