My name is Helena Juntunen, I am a soprano living in Siuntio. I was born in Oulu and I’ve lived in Kiiminki.

How’s your life at the moment, during these rather unusual times?

As corona stepped in, my whole life turned upside down – the whole theatre depopulated; three opera productions and around twenty concerts were cancelled. Lately I’ve been thinking about an old chinese philosophical problem: if a tree falls over, but no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? I’m feeling like that tree. I’ve learned these roles, I’ve lived in Germany for six weeks to train for one of them, I’ve programmed the whole spring; and suddenly, it’s all gone. Have I actually done anything? It’s a challenging situation, it’s hard for everyone. Now we have to find the blessings, the delights. Luckily they exist. Luckily, it’s spring. Luckily, we’re all in the same boat, it’s just the encounters that are different than ever before. Luckily, we’ve got hope.

How do you see Oulu right now?

Oulu is far away. My mom lives in Kiiminki, and to drive from Siuntio to Oulu with children, just to meet mom and grandma with a window in between, is a little too heavy at the moment.

Think one year from now. Where are you, how’s your life?

I hope I’ll be doing the things reading now in my calendar. I’ve got a few lovely roles coming up in Europe. And summer in Savonlinna, where the other half of my family lives.

Oulu is bidding for the title of European Capital of Culture 2026. Why should Oulu win the title, what makes us the best candidate?

Oulu was a great place to grow up and take my first steps in this career in. Oulu is big enough to have a terrific theatre, opera, your own orchestra, a functional concert hall, music classes, and top-notch music education, and yet small enough so that I’ve been able to take part in all of this since I was little. I started as a child assistant at Oulu Theatre when I was 10. I’ve sang with the local choirs, led by Liisa Räisänen, at the highest national and international levels. Leena Salonen directed operas that have left their mark for eternity: I first got on the stage at 16, first in choir and then in a small role. Oulu Conservatorium’s Airi Tokola did a thorough job keeping up my vocals. You’ve got the whole package!

What do you want to say to the Oulu of 2026, when we are the European Capital of Culture?

I hope that all the hunger for culture that has woken up during these special times creates unbelievable bustle once we can return to other people. “Art makes life better than art”.