Monica Groop

  • born in 1958 in Helsinki
  • married to diabetes researcher Per-Henrik Groop, one adult son
  • hobbies include running, exercise, nature, cottage holidays, languages, reading, trekking
  • professional breakthrough at the Finnish National Opera in 1987
  • favourite Turku locations include the city centre and the Vartiovuori hill with its observatory

Helena Juntunen

  • born in 1976 in Kiiminki
  • single
  • hobbies include theatre, cycling, music ranging from Maija Vilkkumaa to the Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • breakthrough at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in 2001
  • favourite Turku locations include River Aura, Port Arthur, Ruissalo

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5 January 2011: Prelude to the Capital of Culture year
Turku Concert Hall
Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”
Leif Segerstam, conductor
Janina Baehcle, mezzo soprano and Helena Juntunen, soprano
Chorus Cathedralis Aboensis, choir master Timo Lehtovaara
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra

20th and 21st January 2011: Tones from Turku, Europe, Today and Tomorrow
Turku Concert Hall
Mikko Heiniö: Moon Concerto
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”
Petri Sakari, conductor
Monica Groop, mezzo soprano
Heini Kärkkäinen, piano
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra

All symphony and chamber music concerts in the Bridge of Tones series

The concerts can also be heard online at www.e-concerthouse.com

Helena Jantunen och Monica Groop har också uppträtt tillsammans. I Richard Strauss Rosenriddaren hade Groop den s.k. byxrollen, d.v.s. hon spelade en man som blev brinnande kär i Juntunens scenfigur.

Humble Workers Become Stars on Stage

Star soloist singers will open the series of fine musical performances during the Capital of Culture year with their concerts in January. Helena Juntunen will sing the prelude to Gustav Mahler’s 2nd Symphony and Monica Groop will visit the worlds of Kaarina Maununtytär and Eerik XIV with the Moonlight Concerto.

The soprano and the mezzo soprano both have a humble attitude towards their performances. Being a prima donna simply does not work. Preparing for a concert is serious work, without room for vanity and egoism.

“Yes, it’s work, work, work! In the very beginning, I’ll get the musical score and start to go through the notes with an open mind. Then, it’s all about practicing and practicing. The audience will only witness the tip of the iceberg – and just a few snowflakes at that,” describes Helena Juntunen with a hearty laugh.

Monica Groop also relies on hard work where every concert is preceded by a period of careful preparation.

“Preparation can take months, especially with a modern piece like this, or weeks with songs that I’m more familiar with. Rehearsals for the actual concert take several days, during which music takes over my life completely. During that time, I’m not very social. I just focus on music and saving my voice,” explains Groop.

Something new, something classic

Looking at the opening concerts, Mahler’s piece is well-established, a true classic, while the Moonlight Concerto by Mikko Heiniö is completely new.

However, the Moonlight Concerto has deep roots. The piece is based on the song Kung Erik, composed by Hugo Ingelius from Turku in the 1800s for a text by Carl Snoilsky, a Swedish poet. The Moonlight Concerto also draws from the poems of Edith Södergran and the lute composition by John Dowland from the 1500−1600s.

Music is a combination of technique and emotion for the singers. Having a personal relationship with the material helps the performance.

“The Moonlight Concerto includes Liten Karin, a beautiful song that I recall from school. Other than that, contemporary music is challenging. We are creating things from scratch, coming up with solutions as we go. When I agreed to do the performance, I did not know what was coming and couldn’t really ask for every note to meet my voice. However, discussing the finer details with Mikko during composition has made the job that much easier,” continues Groop.

Helena Juntunen also considers the work quite comprehensive with each performance being unique along with the culmination of the work that precedes it.

“Opening the notes sheet for the first time is sacral. Sometimes, I have promised to do rare pieces or premieres without looking at the notes first, so it can be quite scary as well.”

Juntunen will also perform in Heiniö’s opera Eerik XIV, which will get its premiere in Turku in November. She looks forward to the main role in Kaarina Maununtytär.

“I trust Mikko. He knows me and my voice, so I’m sure we’ll produce something really special. That doesn’t make this any less nail-biting, though!”

Supported by Loved Ones and Hobbies

A singer leads a mobile life. Helena Juntunen confesses to spending most of the year on the road. Monica Groop, now on a leave of absence from her professorship at the Sibelius Academy, echoes travelling a great deal.

According to Groop, fitting career and social life together is challenging, especially for a woman.

“I have been very lucky in the sense that I have a husband who supports me all the way. Even though this might sound feminist, I think it is easier for a man to build a career, still today. The woman is expected to handle the house, children and everything else when she returns from the tour.”

“Exercise balances my life. When travelling, I try to book hotels with a treadmill and room for exercise. This way I can get my body and blood pumping. At home, I appreciate the comfort of a cottage. For me, it means being close to nature, preparing for future efforts and some physical work, such as chopping wood,” explains Groop.

Juntunen is single and relies on her mother and friends for support.

“We visited the Azores Islands in September to celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday. The trip was my first real vacation in ages,” says Juntunen.

“Work requires you to juggle things in your life, but the distances and time don’t get in the way of good friends. Whenever we see each other, we catch up on the latest news and pick up from where we left off.”

For Juntunen, theatre is the best way to get away.

“Everywhere I go, I go to the theatre. If even a single detail in the performance really touches me, I’m walking on air for days. I saw Oscar Wilde’s Salome in New York. Al Pacino played Herod the Great. When he walked on stage, I was blown away: Pacino is that good. I also really enjoyed Anna Karenina at the Turku City Theatre.”

At home in Turku

As the soloists arrive in Turku in January, they do not want to be greeted with champagne. Actually their demands are really quite basic.

“I require drinkable water. Of course, this is not a problem in Finland, even tap water is fine. I’ve never had a magnum bottle of champagne waiting for me in my dressing room, this job is not that glamorous,” reveals Juntunen.

Groop also relies on her own food and drinks.

“The divas and prima donnas may have their fancy wish lists, but I always bring the essentials that I need – a banana for a snack and water. That’s enough for me.”

If time permits, Groop will head out to the city. The singer may also be spotted amongst the bustle of city.

“I love to walk around and shop when I have the time. I also really enjoy the Vartiovuori hill and its observatory. For me, Turku is special. I’ve performed several lied concerts here, starting from the early days of my career. Recitals are perhaps the most challenging pieces for a singer as they put you in the spotlight from start to finish, without props or an orchestra.”
Juntunen is also quite at home in Turku.

“I’ve visited Eveliina Kytömäki in Turku a lot. She has played piano for me for over 10 years now. Not living in the same city, we visit each other during the weekends and enjoy some food and culture together.”

“When in Turku, I often use a bicycle. A bike gets you places. The River Aura, the wood-building neighbourhoods and Ruissalo are among my favourite places.”

Text: Matti Komulainen