Viimeiset kiusaukset (‘The Last Tempatations’)
- Erkki Arni
(‘The Last Tempatations’)
Opera in two acts by Joonas Kokkonen to a libretto by Lauri Kokkonen; Helsinki, Finnish National Opera, 2 September 1975.
In the late 1950s and early 60s Kokkonen became interested in a play by his cousin Lauri Kokkonen about a 19th-century revivalist preacher, Paavo Ruotsalainen (1772–1852). After a long period of gestation the opera was completed in 1975.
On his deathbed Paavo Ruotsalainen (bass) reviews in a series of flashbacks key events in his life as a wandering evangelist. He sees his first wife Riitta (soprano), long since dead, and they reminisce over their life together. They meet the stern blacksmith Högman (baritone), who inspired Paavo to spread his fundamentalist gospel, and they come across their son Juhana (tenor), tragically slain in a brawl. Paavo and Riitta have a furious quarrel, because his wanderings often leave the family destitute. Time and again Paavo finds that he does not have the strength to open the ‘barrier of heaven’ – not even when Riitta on her deathbed calls him to the island of their first happiness. He must go on preaching, even when mocked by unbelievers or rejected by the learned bishops in a great ceremony in Helsinki. Humbly he prays for forgiveness, and hears the blacksmith, Riitta and Juhana all giving thanks to the Lord. At last he is ready to go through the ‘barrier of heaven’. Paavo awakes to find that a group of people who had been tormenting him are in fact members of his family. Tired, but at peace at last, he bids them farewell; and as they sing a hymn, he calmly and quietly expires....