On a small island off southwest Finland, a new art form has enraptured audiences, bringing opera to those who might seem farthest beyond its reach: the deaf.
“This is like a new food you order, you don’t know what it’s going to taste like. You just take it and try it out,” said Juho Saarinen, one of a new order of ‘opera signers’, amplifying the mime characteristic of normal opera with sign language adapted to convey the mood and tone of music.
Producer Marita Barber, who gave signed opera its world premiere on the tiny Aland islands of southwestern Finland, had mixed feelings about the concept when it first arose three years ago. She accepted that, like with ‘hearing’ opera, the taste may for some take a while to acquire.