As part of Radio 3's Northern Lights Season, award-winning writer Stephen Wyatt has woven the psyche of Jean Sibelius, his music and a Finnish epic into a compelling drama.
It is 1945. Sibelius, national hero, then aged eighty, is about to burn his Eighth Symphony despite the protests of his wife, Aino. He had had nothing new completed or performed for over twenty years, so why would he do this now?
Finland had come to regret its devil's bargain with Nazi Germany: it had warded off Russia, but at what cost? And for how long? In 1899 Sibelius had written Finlandia, expressing defiance of Russian hegemony and a belief in an independent future. Finland is once again struggling for its identity. Could Sibelius do it again with his Eighth Symphony? Closely bound with the Finnish identity he had helped to create, he now finds himself in a moment of creative and national despair. The fate of his long anticipated Eighth Symphony is in the balance.
Finlandia interweaves an intense conflict between husband and wife about burning the manuscripts, with scenes from The Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. The Kalevala morphs in Sibelius's agitated mind until it embodie his internal conflicts and the historical forces at work on Finland. The excerpts from The Kalevala weave in and out of the drama to imaginatively shine a light into the composer's mind and they are underscored with the music The Kalevala inspired Sibelius to write.
The argument between Aino and Sibelius illuminates parts of Sibelius's past and his attitude towards his work and his country, but at its heart the play is an examination of the psyche of Sibelius - artist, national symbol, husband and father - at a crucial juncture in his life and that of his country.