Earlier this year we became aware of a new video featuring one of our piano accompaniment tracks, an utterly joyful interpretation of Art is Calling for Me (aka “The Primadonna Song”) from Victor Herbert’s 1911 comic opera, The Enchantress.
We were so impressed by the performance and the production values that we decided to find out a bit more about the collaborative team behind it. Our enquiries led us to Finland, where we made the delightful acquaintance of Anette Raukola, Soprano, and Tuulia Soininen, dance and video artist.
Tell us a bit about who you both are, what you do, where you do it and why?
Anette: I started my music education by playing violin when I was seven years old. When I turned 15, I was given a chance to change my main instrument to singing. I started singing lessons with pop music. During High School I changed to classical music. I’ll be finishing my bachelor degree in music performance from Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK), majoring in Classical singing at the end of the year 2020. I have been studying singing with Ulla Raiskio and Petri Antikainen, and I have started to study music pedagogy with singing teacher Hanna-Leena Haapamäki at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki.
I have performed two opera roles in the productions at TAMK: “Monica” in The Medium by Menotti in 2019 and “Miisa” in Muumi-ooppera (Moomins, The Opera) by Ilkka Kuusisto. I sang the soprano parts in TAMK production of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana in 2018 and in the chorus of Tampere Opera productions La Boheme (2019) and Veljeni Vartija (2018). In 2021, I will be singing in the choir in Opera Skaala’s production Akhnaten by Philip Glass. At the moment I am also working on a new one-act chamber opera, where I will be singing the solos in 2021.
Tuulia: I graduated from Falmouth University (UK) as a dancer and choreographer. Having returned to Finland the reality of the amount of work there is on offer actually sunk in. This was a moment in life for me to question and rethink. Hence came the idea to expand my artistry into filmmaking, and being able to work for myself in collaboration with other people.
In 2019, I started studying filmmaking in Voionmaa institute and I am finishing my degree there next year. The world of film truly felt like home and I can utilize the same skill sets as in a choreographic process.
I specialise in directing and editing. Filmmaking is a channel through which I can explore new perspectives into different art forms. It is important the film brings something more to the other art form and together they create something new.
How did the video come about?
Anette: We met shortly before a few years ago in Kokkola, where we had a mutual friend. We did not know a lot about each other before starting this project, but we were connected on social media. Tuulia asked me through Facebook messenger if I wanted to collaborate with her before summer 2020 to do a music video… and sure I did.
I recorded the vocals in a local studio, in Musiikkitalo Musatalo Ky Kankaanpää with Hannu Väliaho. On set there were two other people with Tuulia. Aada Railio and Elizabeth Azcuy Sanchez helped Tuulia during filming the scenes. (Tuulia knows better). Tuulia can tell more about the creative process, but on the set we had a lot of fun shooting scenes. Working with her was super easy and we shared the same vision right from the beginning. We had so much fun with the creativity and thinking outside the box.
Tuulia: Anette had been posting videos of herself singing on social media, I had noticed her, and I was at the point of my journey in the world of film that I want to experiment and make as much as I can. That is the best way to learn. So that gave me the idea of making a music video but I wanted it to be classical singing. I wanted it to be something different, a new perspective into the world of classical singing and opera. Perhaps more approachable for the younger generation. I approached Anette and she was very excited from the very beginning and it seemed that our visions fit together really well. We were both on board with making something totally different than the classic stage, candles and evening gowns!
I asked if Anette had a song that could fit this idea and she decided on Art Is Calling For Me. The song was perfect for this video! It is playful, comedic and in English so the majority of the modern audience can understand it.
I was in charge of the video, Anette of the music. I asked two students from the same institute to join the making, Elizabeth Azcuy Sanchez (camera) and Aada Raivio (lighting).
My advice to independent artists would be to get involved and aim to truly make what you want to make! Also just a practical tip for anyone approaching a music video: lip syncing is always the hard part with this kind of work.
It looks like you had a lot of fun filming!
Tuulia: We filmed this in two days and it was lots of fun! I had gone location scouting beforehand and decided on these places. We utilized Voionmaa institute´s studio, Sorsapuisto (a popular park in Tampere), it was so lovely and summery. And Bar IHKU was so kind to let us use their karaoke space.
Anette: Yes, the bar place was empty so we could shoot in private. On the streets people were constantly paying a little bit of attention towards us. I think it was mostly because Tuulia had a big wireless speaker playing the recording loud repeatedly. I had to hear the recording well, because I had to match my lip syncing with it. Tuulia was in charge of costumes and I styled myself with the help of a professional makeup artist.
Tuulia: The last scene was shot in Hämeenkatu in the evening. People were out on the terraces and yeah we did attract some attention with our dolly track and my voice playing out loudly from the speaker!
What drew you to the song?
Anette: I first learned the Primadonna song in 2015 when studying singing in Kokkola with Mari Sillanpää and I performed it the same year in my final concert in Central Ostrobothnia Conservatory. The song was the final song of the concert. The song and the lyrics especially gives me hope, power and truthfulness that I could someday be a notable classical singer. I always want to have fun singing this song and I hope that everyone who sees this video can feel the same way.
We planned the production schedule together with Tuulia and I was in charge of the recording, but Tuulia had everything else under control! I just had to walk prepared to the set. We did not meet live before the first day filming. Everything was clear for the both of us on the first day on set (I think).
Tuulia: Haha, yes I can comp that. Everything was planned out well and Anette just came to the set and performed amazingly!
So, what’s next? Was this a one-off or do you have other collaborations in the works?
Anette: I am hoping to produce a short one act opera with Tuulia and the rest of the team in 2021. We are planning a similar type of music video -in this case a movie of a new opera Äidille (“For Mother”) from Finnish composer Lasse Kallioniemi. The plan is to premiere this new work in movie form on Mother’s Day 2021.
Tuulia: I think it was clear to both of us that it would be amazing to work again in the future and with something bigger. And I am really excited about getting to start working on Äidille.
We can’t wait!
Art is Calling for Me
Music by Victor Herbert, Lyrics by Harry B. Smith
In this comic aria, one of the princesses seeks to catch the eye of Prince Ivan by becoming an opera singer, a life she finds more appealing than being a royal.
Mama is a queen and Papa is a king
So I am a princess (and) I know it
But court etiquette is a dull dreary thing
I just hate it all and I show it
To sing on the stage that’s the one life for me
My figure’s just like Tetrazzini
I know I’d win fame if I sang in Bohéme
That opera by Signor Puccini
I’ve roulades and the trills
That could send the cold chills
Down the backs of all hearers of my vocal frills
I long to be a prima donna, donna, donna
I long to shine upon the stage
I have the embonpoint
To become a queen of song
And my figure would look pretty as a page
I want to be a screechy peachy cantatrice
Like other plump girls that I see
I hate society
I hate propriety
Art is calling for me
I’m in the elite and men sigh at my feet
Still I do not fancy my position
I have not much use for the men that I meet
I quite burn with lyric ambition
Those tenors so sweet
If they made love to me
I’d be a success, that I do know
And Melba I’d oust if I once sang in Faust
That opera so charming by Gounod
Girls would be on the brink
Of hysterics, I think
Even strong men would have to go out for a drink.
I long to be a prima donna, donna, donna
I long to shine upon the stage
With my avoirdupois
And my tra la la la la
I would be the chief sensation of the age.
I long to hear them shouting: “Viva” to the Diva
Oh, very lovely that must be
That’s what I’m dying for
That’s what I’m sighing for
Art is calling for me.