Commissioned by the Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, Dutch National Opera, Finnish National Opera, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and San Francisco Opera.

  • 3(2pic:afl,pic).3.3(bcl).3(cbn)./ /strings ( )
  • SATB
  • 2S, Mz, T, 2Bar, female folk singer, 5 singing actors, female voice
  • 1 hr 45 min
  • Original Finnish libretto by Sofi Oksanen / Multilingual libretto by Aleksi Barrière
    • 28th September 2024, Musiktheater im Revier, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
    • 5th October 2024, Musiktheater im Revier, Gelsenkirchen, Germany
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Programme Note

An opera in five acts to be presented without interval. The main singing language is English and additional languages are Finnish, Czech, French, Romanian, Swedish, German, Spanish, Greek.

Original Finnish libretto by Sofi Oksanen
Multilingual libretto by Aleksi Barrière

The opera takes place on a summer evening, in the 2000s, in Helsinki.

There has been a shooting at an international school in Helsinki: ten students and one teacher have been killed. A student of the school shot them with a weapon he stole from his father’s cupboard. Because he was underage at the moment of the deed, he didn’t face criminal charges, but was handled by Child protection and then processed to psychiatric care.

Ten years later, the shooter’s younger brother is getting married to a woman he met in Romania. The bride doesn’t know about the past events. This younger brother wanted to marry someone who wouldn’t see him first and foremost as the shooter’s brother. The family has decided it would be better to hide the shooter-brother’s existence from the bride.

One of the waiters of the company organizing the wedding’s catering has fallen ill, and a waitress called as a replacement happens to be the mother of one of the shooting’s victims. It is only upon arrival that she understands to whose wedding she has been sent, and she is even more shocked when she understands from an overheard conversation that the shooter has recently been released and has started a new life under a new identity. He has not been invited to the wedding though, because the bridegroom doesn’t want to see his brother ever again.

This is too much for the waitress. As she is serving the wedding cake, she snaps, and demands explanations for the shooter’s actions from his parents. The waitress’s unforeseen behaviour forces the family to tell the bride about the tragedy. Her reaction is not the one they had expected: she is ready to forgive the lies she has been told, because it is her husband she fell in love with, not his family.

Nevertheless the bridegroom leaves his wife. This fortuitous encounter has revealed to him that he is unable to escape from his past and his family, even though he has been trying so very hard to do so.

The bridegroom considers himself responsible for the tragedy. He knew his brother was secretly practising shooting and even took part in those sessions. He did so, because he admired his elder brother and craved for his approval. To him it was a game, but had he told someone about it, the tragedy could have been avoided. He has kept this secret to himself all this time.

The story is not centred on the shooter’s motivations and psyche, but rather on the victims and on how the rampage has impacted their lives. The plot brings to light people who have been influential to the deed, and none of them is innocent.

in their native language

At the wedding
(sung roles)
The Waitress (Tereza) - Czech - mezzo-sorpano
The Bride (Stela) - Romanian - lyric soprano
The Mother-In-Law (Patricia) - French - coloratura soprano
The Bridegroom (Tuomas) - Finnish - tenor
The Father-In-Law (Henrik) - Finnish - baritone
The Priest - Finnish - bass-baritone

Chorus (about 32 singers)

The communication language is English.

In the realm of memories
(spoken and sung roles - all amplified)
The Teacher (Cecilia) – English – singer
Student 1 (Markéta) – Czech – folk singer
Student 2 (Lilly) – Swedish – singer/actor
Student 3 (Iris) – French – actor
Student 4 (Anton) – German – actor
Student 5 (Jerónimo) – Spanish – actor
Student 6 (Alexia) – Greek – actor

These characters may be speaking to each other, or to themselves. Locations are open, as is the timeframe –still in the 2000s though. Child actors may be used to represent the characters at the time of their memories.
However, in no way should the Shooter be represented on stage.


Innocence teaser with Stage Director Simon Stone
A conversation between Kaija Saariaho, Sofi Oksanen and Aleksi Barrière in October 2022 at Finnish National Opera
Innocence - Full Opera



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