I am glad that music critic Martin Bernheimer liked so much of the Finnish National Opera's and our production of "Kullervo." But I am puzzled and frustrated by the insinuations contained in his review ("A Finnish Invasion at the Music Center," Calendar, Feb. 27). For some reason, he implied that there is something unsavory about the fact that the Finnish co-production premiered here, which could not be further from the truth.
"Obviously, the price (of staging the opera here) was right," he wrote. Some readers will infer from that statement that we chose to do the piece because it was some sort of bargain.
I chose to do this piece because I believe in Aulis Sallinen's music, and because I thought it would be good for the Los Angeles Opera to be involved with a world premiere. (In fact, our costs for mounting "Kullervo" are higher than the norm.)
Bernheimer used the adjective "prefabricated" to describe the recording of "Kullervo." To me, the word is pejorative. Is there something wrong with the fact that a record company based in Finland chose to record the latest work by one of that country's most important composers? Wouldn't we all be happier if American companies took the same attitude toward our own composers' works? (Sallinen's popularity in Finland is so strong that Ondine received orders for more than a thousand CDs in advance of the "Kullervo" publication.)
I also was perturbed by his choice of words in writing that conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen "has distanced himself" from this production. As The Times has noted in other articles, he was never at any point part of the arrangement and indeed had never even heard the score.
"Kullervo's" conductor, logically enough, is the music director of the Finnish National Opera, Ulf Soderblom, who has introduced many 20th-Century operas to Finland and is a strong supporter of contemporary Finnish music. As Bernheimer wrote in his review, "The excellent production was conducted with heroic sensitivity."
Our agreement to bring "Kullervo" to Los Angeles predates Salonen's appointment as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It would be unfortunate if people came away from the review thinking there was something suspect in the fact that he was not actively involved.
We were delighted that he joined us for the opening-night performance, since he happens to be a Finn!
Finally, Bernheimer mentioned that there were no "box-office stampedes" when he knows very well that new works seldom bring out the crowds in advance. Again, his tone may lead readers to assume that a normal situation is somehow bad, when, in fact, our ticket revenue for this production will meet our projections.
While Bernheimer has every right forcefully to express his opinion of the work and the production, I feel strongly that the negative tone of his lengthy introduction is unwarranted and destructive.