Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Chekhov Project: Reading Eino Kalima

Eino Kalima: Sattumaa ja johdatusta. Muistelmia [Coincidence and Providence. Memoirs]. Helsinki: WSOY, 1962

Eino Kalima: Kansallisteatterin ohjissa. Muistelmia 2 [In the Reins of The National Theatre. Memoirs 2]. Helsinki: WSOY, 1968

Eino Kalima: Leo Tolstoi. Helsinki: Kansanvalistusseura, 1908.

Timo Tiusanen: Teatterimme hahmottuu. Näyttämötaiteemme kehitystie kansanrunoudesta itsenäisyyden ajan alkuun [Our Theater Finds Its Shape. The Development of Our Scenic Art from Folk Poetry until the Beginning of Independence]. Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä, 1969.

Irmeli Niemi: Nykydraaman ihmiskuva. Analyyseja 1900-luvun eurooppalaisista näytelmistä [Modern Drama and Its View of Humanity. Analyses of European Plays of the 20th Century]. Helsinki: Tammi, 1969. - The Chapters on Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.

Last year I was bitten by an Anton Chekhov bug, and I realize that two thirds of his work I have yet to read, including some of his great stories which have never been translated into Finnish. I also have yet to read different translations of the plays and to read for the first time plays which do not belong to his "big four", such as Ivanov. And perhaps I should actually venture to the theatre and see those plays where they belong... !

I love modern performing arts but the situation with performing the classics has been weird during the last decades. Sometime in the 1950s and the 1960s it started to become de rigueur to interpret classics in estranged, customized ways, or in modern dress, or at least in sets and dresses other than that of the period of the story.

There seems to be a curse around the classics, a ban to perform them straight. For if a classic play is performed straight, the production, if it is any good, is always inevitably a contemporary one, with fresh insight in every detail. It is always a reflection of the present. And paradoxically, if you focus on modernizing it superficially, it may be remain less modern internally. Of course, nobody needs museum pieces without a fresh spirit and inspiration.

My first acquaintance with the phenomenon of modernizing classics was as a schoolboy when I saw The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1967 at the National Theatre in Helsinki. Tauno Palo was Falstaff, and I had the feeling that there was a wink in his eye: "we have been asked to wear these modern dresses, please bear with us". After the intermission I was hoping that they would stop fooling and start to wear to natural dresses. In a way I'm still waiting.

My first encounter with the work of Anton Chekhov took place in a performance of Uncle Vanya in 1966, which I know now was the last production of Eino Kalima (1882-1972) as a theater director. I had no point of reference, but now I read from Timo Tiusanen's history of the Finnish stage (he is referring to a study by Auli Wuorenrinne) that Kalima's Chekhov productions had an impact in the entire Finnish stage art in its development towards a less grandiloquent way and towards a deeper sense of interiority. This influence started in 1914 with Kalima's first production of Uncle Vanya, but according to our theater histories his late interpretations were the most masterful, symphonic, and definitive.

Having seen Joe Wright's whimsical film adaptation of Anna Karenina, interpreted in a musical style with a target audience of teenage girls, but yet with a strong screenplay by Tom Stoppard, I read Eino Kalima's short biography of Leo Tolstoy, written when the great author was still alive. It's a good compact overview about the writer whose influence in Finnish culture was great and who had personal friends in Finland. The only version of the novel Anna Karenina I have read is the Finnish translation by Eino Kalima from 1910-1911, a labour of love to which he devoted two years.

For fun I started to read Kalima's memoirs, too, about his happy childhood in the countryside around Lake Saimaa, school years in Savonlinna and Helsinki (Helsingin normaalilyseo) and university studies in Helsinki, and in 1904-1908 in Saint Petersburg and Moscow (Finland was then an autonomous duchy in the Russian Empire). Anton Chekhov died in 1904, and Kalima never got to meet him. The Russian performing arts impressed him tremendously: The Cherry Orchard, Woe from Wit, the art of Kachalov, Lower Depths, Nordic plays in Russia, Andreyev, Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, Goldoni's La locandiera, Chaliapin in Eugene Onegin, Rimsky-Korsakov conducting Scheherazade, the unforgettable prima ballerina Mathilde Kschessinskaya he saw in Helsinki, and the art direction of Benoît and Korovin in the Alexandrinsky Theatre of Saint Petersburg.

Most of all Kalima was impressed by the Moscow Art Theatre. Kalima met Konstantin Stanislavski and the agreement was for him to start in his masterclass in the autumn of 1917... But then came the revolution.

In the same year Kalima was elected to be the theater director of the National Theater of Finland, to annual and much later to three year contracts which were extended for 33 years. Reading his memoirs from such a long career is a way to study the entire history of the theater in Europe and a bit also in the U.S.A.

There are film-relevant connections in every chapter although the cinema is never mentioned. Yet almost all of Kalima's colleagues worked for the cinema, starting with the first Finnish fiction film, Salaviinanpolttajat / The Moonshiners, made in 1907: its cast and crew were composed of talent from the Finnish National Theater. It is fascinating that one can imagine vividly the casting of Kalima's stage production of Marcel Pagnol's Marius (April 1931) because all Kalima's actors appeared frequently in films and are still well-known to lovers of the Finnish cinema. (The French premiere of the film adaptation of Marius was in October 1931. In Finnish cinemas Marius was seen in the Swedish-language version Längtan till havet, co-directed by John W. Brunius and Alexander Korda, in January 1932; its Finnish release title was Marius).

Following the Chekhov thread I also read Irmeli Niemi's superb interpretations about Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard. Like Sophie Laffitte, Irmeli Niemi is puzzled by Chekhov's underestimating view of women.

Rough notes from Eino Kalima's memoirs

PART I

His dear brother Jalo Kalima
Juhani Aho, Johannes Linnankoski, Joel Lehtonen, Ilmari Kianto, Maria Jotuni, V.A. Koskenniemi, Maila Talvio, Eino Kaila, K.S. Laurila, Kyösti Wilkuna, Eino Leino, Otto Manninen,

Kaarlo Bergbom, Ida Aalberg and her husband, Baron Uexkull, Jalmari Lahdensuo, Adolf Lindfors,

Kalima was a music lover who was also constantly playing on the piano, mostly for himself. One of his favourite compositions was Pelléas et Mélisande by Jean Sibelius, whom he also knew personally.

Leo Tolstoy, Leonid Andreyev, Alexander Kuprin, and Maxim Gorky.

Ivan Hedqvist as Professor Higgins, Johannes Poulsen as Peer Gynt, Max Reinhardt productions in Berlin.

Introducing a lot of Polish and Czech drama in Finland.

Arnold Szyfman became a friend.

The Finnish premiere of Uncle Vanya with Teuvo Puro (uncle Vanya), Urho Somersalmi (Astrov), Aili Somersalmi (Sonya), Eero Kilpi (Serebryakov), Lilli Tulenheimo (his wife), Iisakki Lattu, and Katri Rautio.

The Forest by Alexander Ostrovsky.

PART II

The Finnish independence celebration, 6 January 1918, with Daniel Hjort, and the episode with "Die Wacht am Rhein" played on the occasion. - Tor Hedberg: Johan Ulfstjerna. - Robert Kajanus conducting L'Arlésienne - the Red reign - the German landing.

Autumn 1918: - Juhani Siljo and Ain'Elisabet Pennanen - Romeo and Juliet with Aili Somersalmi and Aarne Leppänen - The Golden Calf by Maria Jotuni.

Tadeusz Rittner: W małym domku - Edmond Rostand: Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Axel Ahlberg - Eugène Scribe: La Verre d'eau - Robert de Flers & Armand de Caillavet: La belle aventur.

Meeting Werner Söderhjelm - Selma Lagerlöf.

Ludvig Holberg: Jeppe paa bjerget starring Adolf Lindfors.

Larin-Kyösti, Arvid Lydecken, Hjalmar Procopé, Runar Schildt, Jarl Hemmer, Eino Kaila, Eero Snellman, Yrjö Hirn, Gustav Suits, Aino Kallas.

G.B. Shaw: You Never Can Tell, introducing the foxtrot in Finland - D'Annunzio: La figlia di Jorio - Franz Grillparzer: Sappho, starring Lilli Tulenheimo: "stille Grösse und edle Einfalt" - R.B. Sheridan: The School for Scandal starring Adolf Lindfors, Axel Ahlberg, and Helmi Lindelöf - Johannes Linnankoski: Jephta's Daughter - Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: Paul Lange og Tora Parsberg starring Urho Somersalmi and Lilli Tulenheimo - Nummisuutarit starring Teuvo Puro, in the presence of Mannerheim - Molière: Tartuffe, staring Adolf Lindfors and Jaakko Korhonen - Nikolai Gogol: The Government Inspector, starring Jussi Snellman - Gabryela Zapolska: Moralność pani Dulskiej starring Kirsti Suonio - Jääkärin morsian - Eino Leino: Simo Hurtta (in collaboration with Eino Leino).

1921: Paris becomes Eino Kalima's favourite city - via Berlin: Max Reinhardt and Danton - Paris: Jacques Copeau and Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier - Mérimée: Le Carrosse du St. Sacrement and Charles Vildrac: Le Paquebot Tenacity (double bill).

The funeral of Juhani Aho - Romain Rolland: Danton starring Jaakko Korhonen and Jussi Snellman - 1922: the 300th anniversary of Molière in Paris - Blasco Ibáñez - Dmitry Merezhkovsky - Robert de Flers conjuring up Molière, himself - Carl Enckell - Lucien Guitry as Alceste in Le Misanthrope: the high point of the entire celebration - another high point: Les Fourberies de Scapin at Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier - le goût et la mesure - back to Helsinki via Berlin: Max Reinhardt's production of Strindberg's Dream Play.

Leonid Andreyev: Professor S / Professor Storitsyn (1913) starring Jaakko Korhonen, one of my happiest premieres - Schiller: Wallensteins Tod starring Urho Somersalmi - Shakespeare: Cymbeline, starring Aili Somersalmi - Dario Niccodemi: Scampolo, starring Tyyne Haarla - Kyösti Wilkuna: Niilo Skalm - Jean Sibelius: Scaramouche - Jan August Kisielewski: Wsieci starring Anna Mangström.

A private dinner for Mannerheim - in the company of Jean Sibelius, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, and Eliel Saarinen.

Berlin: seeing Elisabeth Bergner in As You Like It - visiting Prague - visiting Poland, seeing Wladyslaw Reymont's Chlopy - Alexander Fredro's Zemsta - Arnold Szyfman and Teatr Polski - Stefan Zeromski: Sulkowski - Ludvik Solski in L'Avare.

In Paris: a brilliant production misled me to take a mediocre play - Le Misanthrope starring Jacques Copeau and Valentine Tessier was great - Bastos le Hardi I made the mistake of introducing in Helsinki - getting acquainted with Jacques Copeau - next year, Copeau retired into the countryside.

A Winter's Tale starring Aili Somersalmi and Jaakko Korhonen - Bourgeois gentilhomme starring Adolf Lindfors - Georges de Porto-Riche: Amoureuse starring Ruth Snellman - Franz Grillparzer: Der Traum ein Leben starring Aarne Leppänen - Lauri Haarla: Synti starring Aarne Leppänen - Molière: Les Femmes savantes starring Lilli Tulenheimo, Päivi Horsma - Jacino Benavente: La Malquerida starring Lilli Tulenheimo, Tyyne Juntto - Molière's Le Malade imaginaire starring Adolf Lindfors performed for Frenchmen.

Right wing pressure towards the National Theatre, the activism of Artturi Järviluoma.

Success with the Alfred Savoir adaptation of La huitième femme de Barbe-Bleue by Charlton Andrews, starring Adolf Lindfors - a highlight: Nikolai Evreinov (Евреинов): The Chief Thing / Komedie des Glücks / Comédie de bonheur / Samoye glavnoye (1921), p. 192-195 (II) - getting to meet Evreinov in Paris.

The 30th anniversary of the career of Mia Backman, director of Kansanteatteri.

Backlash against the National Theater - K.S. Laurila, Jalmari Lahdensuo, etc. - Kalima's supporters: Kersti Bergroth, Yrjö Hirn, Eero Järnefelt, Yrjö Koskelainen, Otto Manninen, F. E. Sillanpää, Anna-Maria Tallgren - Otto Manninen's poem (p. 207-210, II).

Dario Niccodemi: L'alba, il giorno, la notte with the Norwegian Ingolf Schanche as a surprise guest star.

Friendship with Jean-Louis Perret - P.S. Pavolini - Georges Duhamel, Luc Durtain.

Jules Romains: Knock - Kersti Bergroth: Maa huojuu - Luigi Pirandello: Così è (se vi pare) - G.B. Shaw: Caesar and Cleopatra.

Reconciliation with Jalmari Lahdensuo.

The Taming of the Shrew in the spirit of Copeau - August Strindberg: Kristina with Helmi Lindelöf as Queen Christina - Molière: Le Médecin malgré lui starring Paavo Jännes as Sganarelle and Le Sicilien starring Adolf Lindfors - Karol Hubert Rostworoski: Kajus Cezar Kaligula with Jaakko Korhonen as Caligula - Luigi Pirandello: Il piacere dell'onestà with Jaakko Korhonen.

In 1927 in Vienna, seeing Leopold Jessner's production of Florian Geyer, Franz Werfel's Paulus unter den Juden with Paul Hartmann.

In Paris, meeting Jules Romains - seeing Louis Jouvet's productions of Le Simoun, and Bava l'Africain - Gaston Baty's production of Cris des cœurs.

Introducing Marcel Pagnol in Finland in 1927: Les Marchands de gloire (with Paul Nivoix) - Ben Jonson's Volpone with Aku Korhonen as Corbaccio and Ilmari Unho as Voltore: my best comedy production - my discovery of the genius of Aku Korhonen - William Shakespeare's The Tempest with the music by Jean Sibelius - meeting Sibelius - the problem: an orchestra of 75-

The Ibsen centenary - Karel Čapek: R.U.R. with Yrjö Tuominen as the last man, people fainted - August Strindberg: Karl XII - my first visit to Norway - meeting Firmin Gémier - visiting Berlin in 1928: seeing Bertolt Brecht: Die Dreigroschenoper - in Paris: seeing Edouard Bourdet's Vient de parâitre and H.-R. Lernormand's Le Simoun with Firmin Gémier - for the first time in Provence, Marseille.

1928: also the Leo Tolstoy centenary - The Living Corpse, inspired by Chekhov - starring Aarne Leppänen - the return of Joel Rinne - starring in Carlo Goldoni's Il servitore di due padroni - the breakthrough to excellence of Joel Rinne - Franz Werfel: Paulus unter den Juden with Jaakko Korhonen, Yrjö Tuominen, Aarne Leppänen, Adolf Lindfors.

Seeing in Paris in 1928 the guest performances of Moscow's Kamernyi Teatr (Alexander Tairov): fascinated with the Ostrovsky and O'Neill interpretations - the death of Adolf Lindfors - huge success with R.C. Sherriff's Journey's End - getting acquainted with Leo Wainstein and Regina Wainstein.

1930: Marcel Pagnol: Topaze with Aku Korhonen - August Strindberg: Svanevit with a score by Jean Sibelius - Molière: Amphitryon with Yrjö Tuominen, Teuvo Puro - no success with Die Dreigroschenoper directed by Pekka Alpo - I could not find a taste with the epic theater and the Verfremdungs-effekt - I got to meet Brecht later during his exile with Hella Wuolijoki - he was a modest, quiet man - success with Victorien Sardou's Madame Sans-Gêne with Kirsti Suonio - the great tragedian Aarne Leppänen was brilliant in this comedy.

1930-1931: Among my favourite productions of all times: Eugene O'Neill's Desire Under the Elms with Glory Leppänen - inspired by Tairov - a brilliant score by Uuno Klami - Marcel Pagnol's Marius in April 1931 with Yrjö Tuominen (César), Joel Rinne (Marius), Aku Korhonen (Aku Korhonen), Uuno Montonen (the captain), and a brilliant breakthrough by Henny Waljus (Fanny) - "I have never seen such an engrossing performance of sorrow as that of Henny Waljus as Fanny" - the Frenchmen in Helsinki were delighted - William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with Jussi Jalas conducting the Mendelssohn score - hosting the visit of the Swedish Royal Theater (= opera) - in the presence of Jean Sibelius, Armas Järnefelt, and Robert Kajanus - mentor: Amos Andersson - the death of Heidi Blåfield.

1931-1932: Beaumarchais: Le Mariage de Figaro with Joel Rinne - František Langer: Obrácení Ferdyše Pištory, also with Joel Rinne, together with Henny Waljus - Marcel Pagnol's Fanny - Alexander Ostrovsky's The Storm inspired by Tairov, departing from the naturalistic tradition.

In 1932 I turned 50 and was shocked at getting old - but I did not feel a difference when I turned 60 - or 70.

Anna-Maria Tallgren was my valuable advisor. I did not read English.

With great pleasure introducing Kersti Bergroth's Anu ja Mikko, with Henny Waljus, Aarne Leppänen, and Aku Korhonen - Hans Chlumberg's anti-war play Wunder um Verdun with Aarne Leppänen - the brilliant children's play Pikku Pirkko Pirkkalasta by Uncle Markus  - Elmer Rice: Street Scene / Katu, designed by Matti Warén, with Aili Somersalmi, Yrjö Tuominen, Unto Salminen, and Henny Waljus - Bogdan Katerwa's Przechodzien [The Passer-By] with Unto Salminen and Helmi Lindelöf, legendary in Poland thanks to the performance of Osterwa (= Juliusz Osterwa) - Molière's L'Ecole de femmes with Aku Korhonen as Arnolph.

1933-1934: Return to Savonlinna - death of father - few sons have known a father's love as I have done - failure with Ronald Mackenzie's Musical Chairs - Kaj Munk's Ordet with Urho Somersalmi (Mikkel Borgen), Uuno Laakso (Peter), Aarne Leppänen (Johannes) - Luigi Pirandello's visit to Finland - Luigi Pirandello: Trovarsi / Löydänkö itseni with Emmi Jurkka, Joel Rinne, designed by Matti Warén - Benito Mussolini and Giovacchino Forzano: Campo di Maggio, about Napoléon and Fouché, starring Teuvo Puro and Jaakko Korhonen - Sil-Vara's Mädchenjahre einer Königin with Henny Waljus as the young Queen Victoria and Joel Rinne as Prince Albert.

The most remarkable theater event of 1934 was the production of S. Anski's The Dybbuk, translated by Aino Kallas, with Dr. Elias Rubinstein as the advisor, a score by Simon Parmet, choreography by Maggie Gripenberg, starring Emmi Jurkka, Aarne Leppänen.

Puzzled by Louis Jouvet.

1934-1935: Aleksis Kivi centenary - Kullervo, with Aarne Leppänen, design by Matti Warén, music from Sibelius - Aarne Leppänen getting fatally ill - Shakespeare: Coriolanus, great lead by Urho Somersalmi - Eugene O'Neill: Ah, Wilderness - Henrik Ibsen: The Wild Duck, for me Ibsen's best play, with Henny Waljus (Hedvig), Joel Rinne (Gregers Werle), Uuno Laakso, Emmi Jurkka, Teuvo Puro - Marcel Achard: Domino, success with comedy with Joel Rinne and Ruth Snellman - the most unforgettable experience was Olof Molander's production of Euripides's Medea with Tora Teje.

Polish connections: studying the mazurka.

My only trip to England - Sibelius' 70. anniversary: Jedermann - 1936: our first guest visit - to Stockholm - seeing Alf Sjöberg's production of Huset vid landsvägen [La Maison épargnée?] by Jean-Jacques Bernard [brother of Raymond Bernard].

1936-1937: Henning Berger: Syndafloden, inspired by the production I saw at the Moscow Art Theater in 1916 - Gaston Baty's adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment with Unto Salminen (Raskolnikov), Ansa Ikonen (Sonya), and Yrjö Tuominen (Porfiri), conducted by Jussi Jalas - Sophocles: Oedipus the King in the translation by Otto Manninen with Urho Somersalmi, Teuvo Puro, and Yrjö Tuominen, score by Leevi Madetoja, choreography by Maggie Gripenberg - more than ten years later I saw Tyrone Guthrie's production at Svenska Teatern and was disappointed - Shakespeare's King Lear with Yrjö Tuominen - Háry János impressed with the music by Zoltán Kodály.

1937: The French General Maxime Weygand visited Helsinki - appalled in Germany in 1937 - in Prague I boarded le Train Bleu to Paris in order not to have to visit Germany on my way - the Paris World exposition with Alvar Aalto - meeting the architect Jukka Sirén and his son Heikki Sirén - Chartres - Väinö Voionmaa, Eero Snellman, Väinö Hakkila.

The premature death of Aarne Leppänen, the greatest hope and already the greatest fulfillment, due to a terrible illness - the death of Mimmi Lähteenoja for whom the theater was "paradise on Earth".

1937-1938: Dmitry Merezhkovsky: Smert Pavla I / [The Death of Paul I, 1905], one of my greatest triumphs, with Aku Korhonen, Wilho Ilmari (Pahlen), designed by Karl Fager, conducted by Heikki Aaltoila - František Langer: Dvaasedmdesátka / [Prisoner Number 72] with Kaisu Leppänen and Tauno Palo.

Summer 1938: my last trip abroad before WWII - what I saw in Berlin was for me intolerably repugnant - I went to Warsaw, was fascinated with Jerzy Szaniawski and his Ptak / The Bird

Otto Manninen was my best friend - problems with the pressure from the board of the National Theatre - Wuolijoki's Niskavuori play was rejected by the board - also Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was rejected by the board - as was Karel Čapek's The Mother.

After 1938: I was happy to hire Ella Eronen  - William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure - Franz Werfel's Jacobowsky und der Oberst with Aku Korhonen and Tauno Palo - Jean Anouilh's Antigone with Eeva-Kaarina Volanen - in 1947 back to Chekhov: Three Sisters with Rauha Rentola - Le Misanthrope translated by Otto Manninen with Ritva Arvelo (Célimène) and Joel Rinne (Alceste); the best Alceste I have seen is Max von Sydow - Jean-Paul Sartre's Les Mains sales with Kyllikki Forssell (Jessica), Rauli Tuomi (Hugo), and Aku Korhonen: accusations of his likeness with Stalin - I had actually met Stalin and did not agree - my last season as the director of the theatre: three productions I'm proud of - Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire directed by Arvi Kivimaa, R. B. Sheridan's The School of Scandal directed by Wilho Ilmari, and Anton Chekhov's The Seagull directed by myself.

The readers of my memoirs may be amazed that there is not a word in them about my Anton Chekhov productions. But my Chekhov reputation is mostly based on my work as a guest director during my retirement.

Credo:

Miss' ikään käyt ja kunne,
pyhäksi paikka tunne:
Ylimmän huonehessa käyt

- O. Manninen

[Wherever you may go
realize the place is holy:
you are visiting the room of the supreme one]

No comments: