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Ruut Mattila: Once upon a time — or happening today?

“The libretto places a great focus on nature and the environment”

The Chernobyl nuclear accident happened some years before I was born, so until I began digging deeper into the subject because of the All the Truths We Cannot See production, it was quite a distant event for me. Of course, the accident is still much talked about, but it has mainly been something that I relate to history books and the already long-ago gone time in the Soviet Union. At the same time, political and environmental discussions about nuclear power are still very real and visible, and what happened in Chernobyl is still the most frightening vision of what could happen in the worst case.

It’s easy to find the technical facts, causes and effects, and physical and chemical explanations for the Chernobyl disaster. This is one way of approaching and understanding the events and their consequences. However, after reading the libretto of All the Truths We Cannot See, I see that the approach to the subject in this opera is more symbolic. It offers a broader, more ambiguous way of exploring what happened, or could have happened, than just documenting the already known facts.

The libretto places a great focus on nature and the environment, especially including animals, and ties the fact-based events at the nuclear power plant to a wider consideration of the relationship between nature and human action. In this way I find the storyline of the opera to be much closer to us now, especially in the middle of the climate change crisis, than we would like to admit. The effects of accidental events at a nuclear power plant in the Soviet Union over thirty years ago are not that far away from the reality of our life today.

In addition to seeing the events at Chernobyl from the subjectively portrayed perspective of nature and animals, there are also strong and dramatic human characters who form the storyline and drama in the opera. Love, death, power, revenge – these are elementary themes in so many operas, but now seen in a nuclear disaster setting.

I’m singing the role of babusya, a grandmother, who I see as a link between ancient nature and the modern human world with its increasingly scientific focus. Babusya discusses, wonders, and asks questions about the conflict between the natural environment and the industrializing world. She also portrays the human feelings of sorrow and helplessness, which are here caused by our own selfish actions.

Ruut Mattila 24.9.2020
The author plays the parts of elk, babusya and robot in the opera All the Truths We Cannot See – A Chernobyl Story.

All the truths we cannot see – a Chernobyl story

All the Truths We Cannot See: A Chernobyl Story is an opera by Uljas Pulkkis and Glenda D. Goss. It is produced as a collaboration between Uniarts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy and the USC Thornton School of Music. Students from these institutions join forces in an opera production, which will premiere in Helsinki on 15 March 2022. The American premiere will take place in Los Angeles on 21 April 2022. 

All the Truths We Cannot See: A Chernobyl Story explores the explosion that happened at a power plant in Chernobyl, Soviet Union in 1986, as well as its reasons and consequences.

This blog reveals the background stories and people behind this project and also represents some expert articles discussing the relation between opera and the environment.

Read more about the All the Truths We Cannot See: A Chernobyl Story opera

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