If you can pronounce “Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää Suomi” we know where you will be on Saturday, 8 April. If not, come to Théâtre Francis Gag anyway!
Santa calls it home, along with 5.4 million fellow Finns. It’s cold there. They eat strange things like pickled fried herring. They invented sauna. And the language is basically alphabet soup…. Those are the typical stereotypes about the small Nordic country, seen from the outside. Well, there is actually a lot more to Finland. It has quite the cultural heritage – music, dance, poetry. And this year Finland commemorates its 100th anniversary of independence from Russia. Reason enough for the local Finnish community to turn Nice into Little Helsinki for a daylong celebration of its rich culture on Saturday, 8 April.
Suomi 100 – A Daylong ‘Best Of’ Programme
The all-day celebration, spearheaded by leading Finnish artist Mari Laurila-Lili (pictured below), starts at 10.30 h with mass at Église de la Transfiguration (4 Rue Melchior de Vogue, Nice) the parish church of the Finnish community and after lunch moves over to Théâtre Francis Gag.
Starting at 14 h, the first part of the afternoon programme features speeches and Round Table discussions about the country’s culture, along with select texts and a short theatrical performance. This segment is held in Finnish, so you might want to brush up on your suomen kieli first if you wish to attend.
From 17 h on, anyone is welcome to sample a buffet of Finnish delicacies, discover an exhibition of contemporary artists and artisans in the theater lobby, and meet entrepreneurs from the Nordic country who have made the French Riviera their home.
At 19 h, Mari Laurila-Lili’s company Le Fruit du Hasard presents a rich and representative concert in all its facets. Finnish and French performers come together to interpret œuvres of the country’s great composers Sibelius, Kuula, Merikanto, and Klami. Dance and a poetry recital round off the festive evening. Among the numerous illustrious artists, internationally renowned mezzo soprano Liisa Viinanen, and popular French actor François Voisin – and of course Mari Laurila-Lili herself. A propos…. even though she is a staple at Niçois theatres, there is something you may not know about her….
In fact, multitalented Mari – accomplished singer, pianist, actress, and dancer – was a huge child star back in Finland. She was all of three years old when she recorded her first album. Aja hiljaa isi (Drive slowly, Dad) became not only an instant chartbuster, but also the fanfare for road safety.
And on and on it went from there… at six she got her first Golden Record for Peppi Pitkätossu (Pippi Longstocking), and until age 12 she was a permanent fixture in the Top 10. In young adulthood she put her talent on a solid foundation, studying acting and piano at the Paris conservatory and musical theatre at the Royal Academy of Music in London, and she has been rewarded with a fine career at some of the most prestigious theatres and opera houses around Europe. It may have to do with her international outlook – born in Finland, fluent in no less than seven languages, and a longtime resident of Nice – that she discovered somewhere en route her love for Berlin cabaret and German authors… and she promptly turned composer Friedrich Holländer’s music to comedian Karl Valentin’s texts – a roaring success just last fall at the Théâtre Francis Gag. It’s almost as if this stage was her natural habitat, and it is therefore not surprising that Mari has again chosen it for the Suomi 100 celebration.
Meet Mari and her fellow artists on Saturday, 8 April to help her wish Finland a Happy Independence Day and to get acquainted with a culture that is so much more lively and colourful than you ever knew.
Tickets cost €15 regular rate / €12 reduced rate. Reservations can be made by calling +33 6 10 01 35 25 or you can purchase your ticket at the box office on the day of the event.
Théâtre Francis Gag
4, rue de la Croix
Tel: +33 4 92 00 78 50
Lead image Helsinki Senate Square courtesy Visit Finland, © Elina Sirparanta; all other images courtesy Suomi Finland 100