Created specially for television and recorded in studio, this short opera by one of today’s most eminent Finnish composers is based on a Christmas story by the American writer O. Henry. Rautavaara sets The Gift of the Magi in a poor district of Helsinki in the 1920s. Snow covers the ground and the poor tenants of Mr Salomon’s building live in fear of eviction. Minna (Pia Freund) and Joel (Jaako Kortekangas), two young newly-weds, are having trouble paying their rent, let alone buying Christmas presents. Yet they both long to give the other something special as an expression of their love. So that she can buy Joel a chain for his watch, his most treasured possession, Minna sells her beautiful hair. Joel adores his wife’s shining locks and parts with his watch so that he can purchase the magnificent set of jewelled combs she covets. Though their gifts are now useless, their joy in each other’s love is precious beyond value. In the words of O. Henry: “Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are the wisest. Everywhere they are the wisest, They are the magi.” The telling of the story is unsentimental, Hannu Heikinheimo’s staging exquisitely observed, and Rautavaara’s music powerfully compelling. The Christmas message finds a truly imaginative and unequivocal expression in The Gift of the Magi.