On the 21st of October 2005, legendary Finnish heavy metal group Nightwish played their final gig of a worldwide tour for their 2004 album “Once” at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland. This hugely successful album sold over one million copies and became their breakthrough record in America. What classically trained singer Tarja Turunen, who had been with Nightwish since their formation in 1996, didn’t know was that this would be her final performance with the band.
In that gig, the band played their unique version of “Phantom of the Opera”, taken from their 2002 album “Century’s Child”. The video, which has been viewed more than 49 million times on YouTube, takes on a special poignancy, knowing that it would be the last time that Turunen would perform the song with Nightwish. But even at the time, there was great emotion in the crowd as the band began the track.
For some members of the audience, the emotion that came with the song was almost too much to bear. Some fans were in tears, while others covered their face with their hands. Even the band’s drummer, Jukka Antero “Julius” Nevalainen, held his head in his hands as Turunen sang the first verse with just a keyboard accompaniment. Then the band kicked into full metal mode, and bassist and vocalist Marko Hietala sang the second verse before the two singers duetted majestically.
After this gig and the end of the tour, Turunen was informed in writing that she was no longer a member of Nightwish. Reasons for her dismissal were given, citing her apparently being distracted from the band by commercial interests and her husband, Marcelo Cabuli. This letter was also published on the band’s website. Turunen was shocked by the decision and felt that the reasons given were unfair. She especially resented her marriage being blamed for her dismissal.
After Turunen was dismissed, Nightwish brought in Swedish singer Anette Olzon, who recorded two albums with the band before also being sacked in 2012. Olzon claimed that being pregnant with her third child contributed to this decision. The Dutch singer Floor Jansen replaced Olzon and remains with the band now.
Turunen has released several solo records, including the classical album “Ave Maria – En Plein Air” in 2015. She continued to perform “Phantom of the Opera” in her solo shows. In August 2023, while playing a gig at Pratteln in Switzerland, Hietala – who left Nightwish in 2020 – joined Turunen onstage for a reunion version of the classic track.