Kalevala on Internet

The Americans are keen on reading Kalevala — at least judging by the popularity of the latest English translation and a subsequent Internet version. The Finnish regional daily, Turun Sanomat (28 February 2001), reports that thousands of copies of this version of Kalevala have been bought by schools and libraries in the United States. The translation was published in 1988 and the new Internet version was available online February this year.

According to Turun Sanomat, the translation by Eino Friberg is widely considered to be the best so far. Many radio programmes and even musicals have been based on this version.

The person behind this Kalevala project is the Finnish Consul John O. Virtanen, who now after retirement lives in Turku. Virtanen says that he managed to obtain Finnish state funding for the translation work. The translater, Eino Friberg, has lived in the United States since childhood.

The Internet version has been prepared by Virtanen's grandson, John Virtanen III. It can be found at http://kalevala.hypermart.net/

Another sign of American interest in Kalevala is a musical drama composed by Ruth MacKenzie, a jazz and blues singer and song writer. According to a report in Helsingin Sanomat (19 February 2001), she became interested in the ancient Finnish and Karelian song culture at the Kaustinen Folk Music Festival in 1993. Later MacKenzie started to use Eino Friberg's translation of Kalevala as a basis for her own compositions. She also includes verses in Finnish which makes it more exotic for American listeners.

Dream of the Salmon Maiden was finished in 1997. The stage production was directed by Wendy Knox, who is a third generation American Finn. The choreography was designed by Wynn Fricke. The production was staged in the Southern Theatre of Minneapolis. It was well received by critics. A CD of the music was also publshed. Last month the work was staged in St. Paul, Minnesota.


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