Excerpts from 650-word article

OPERA AT SAVONLINNA

by Pam Hobbs

Savonlinna, Finland: With a cool night wind blowing down my neck I sat on the hard wooden seat for more than three hours, totally enthralled. Regulars had arrived with cushions and blankets and woolly hats. As a first-time visitor I was unprepared for low temperatures in July, but it really didn't matter. Like everyone else here I was completely absorbed in Wagner's Flying Dutchman, staged in the courtyard of a fifteenth century castle at Savonlinna, 'pearl of the islands' in south east Finland....

Located in the heart of Finland's Saimaa Lake district, this is an area of unusual beauty, where ancient waterways and overland trade routes met long ago. A settlement grew around the castle in the early 1600s, and 200 yeas later the town was a popular spa resort....

As was typical of nineteenth century European spa towns, music was considered important in promoting good health. In addition to spa facilities, idyllic walks and boat rides on surrounding lakes, an annual music festival was held in Savonlinna every summer....