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Behind the Scenes

Osmo Vänskä Signs $75 Million Deal to Create Original Programming for Netflix

Osmo Vänskä announces his exclusive contract with Netflix at a press conference in Orchestra Hall's Target Atrium on April 1, 2022.
Osmo Vänskä announces his exclusive contract with Netflix at a press conference in Orchestra Hall's Target Atrium on April 1, 2022.

The Minnesota Orchestra announced on Friday, April 1, that conductor Osmo Vänskä, who will complete his 19-year tenure as the Orchestra’s music director this summer, has signed a five-year, $75 million contract with Netflix to create and produce original series and films for the popular streaming service. The groundbreaking deal will bring Vänskä’s multifaceted background as a conductor, clarinetist, composer and motorcycle enthusiast to Netflix—where he will bring a variety of classical music-themed programming, Finnish folk legends and other surprises to the service’s 222 million worldwide subscribers.

“Since I came to the Minnesota Orchestra in 2003, we have made so much music and done so many good things together,” said Vänskä. “But now it is time for new kinds of challenges. I am excited for this partnership with Netflix where we can bring classical music to places it has never gone, and I can also continue my life’s work toward the EGOT.” Vänskä—referring to the entertainment industry’s select circle of 16 individuals who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award—added that he mulled the streaming giant’s contract offer for several months and finally accepted it after Googling “does finland have netflix” late at night following the Orchestra’s recent performance of Gustav Mahler’s Ninth Symphony.

“We’re delighted to bring Osmo, his creative genius and his dedicated work ethic into our stable of content creators alongside folks like Ryan Murphy, Shonda Rhimes, and the British-American royal couple Harry and Meghan,” said April Lipila, Netflix’s chief content executive for North America. “We can’t wait to see what brilliant ideas he’s been scribbling in the margins of his Sibelius symphony scores for all these years.”

Vänskä is still in the early stages of workshopping concepts for new series and movies, but did offer a sampling of his initial ideas at a 20-minute press conference in Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium, explaining that he envisions an Alfonso Cuarón-directed feature film about the life of Johann Christoph Denner, the 17th-century German instrument maker credited with inventing the clarinet; High Sticking, a 10-episode limited series about a 60-something orchestra conductor who moonlights as an NHL hockey coach; Keeping Up with Kalevi, a weekly unscripted look at the musings and music of contemporary Finnish composer Kalevi Aho; and Re-Score, an animated anthology series in which each episode explores an alternate version of the Minnesota Orchestra’s history if just one event turned out differently. “What if Leonard Bernstein had become music director in 1949 rather than Antal Dorati?” Vänskä offered as an example, then continued: “What if the ensemble permanently banned violas in 1903? What if the protrusions on Orchestra Hall’s walls and ceiling were octagons instead of cubes?”

At the press conference’s conclusion, Vänskä grinned and nodded when asked if there will be a Jean Sibelius series. Asked if he would cast himself as Sibelius, Vänskä demurred, stating “I will have to ask the Sibelius Estate,” which owns the film rights to the composer’s life story and will approve actors for the major roles.

In conjunction with the announcement of Vänskä’s partnership, the Minnesota Orchestra and Netflix unveiled plans for next October’s world premiere of Tiger King in Concert, a marathon 9-hour-long performance at which both seasons of the hit Netflix series will be shown consecutively on a large screen as the Orchestra gives a live performance of the Tiger King score composed primarily by Mark Mothersbaugh—with guest vocalist Craig Minowa of Cloud Cult filling in on selected songs sung by Joe Exotic in the series’ original soundtrack. “We know that great things are in store for Osmo, Netflix and the Minnesota Orchestra,” said Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. “Maybe somewhere down the line we can do something with The Mandalorian—oh no wait, that’s Disney Plus.”

Note: The Minnesota Orchestra shared the above news on April 1, 2022.