Opera singer Aino Ackté discovered that the partially ruined Olavinlinna Castle could well be a place to perform opera. The first Opera Festival was held in 1912. There were festivals also 1913, 1914, 1916 and for the last time in 1930. The repertoire consisted mainly of Finnish operas. Finnish music was also heard in the concerts which were held during the opera festivals.
The Opera Festival returned again in 1967. The Castle was only accessible by boat and there was no rain shelter. The first opera performance was Beethoven's Fidelio. The world famous opera singer Martti Talvela began his work as the artistic director in 1972, which started the strong development into an internationally known opera event. In the end of the 1970's the rain shelter and chairs were obtained to please the viewers.
In 1987 the Festival was prolonged by adding a fourth week of which repertoire is produced by some foreign opera house. The first foreign opera house was the Estonia Theatre.
In the end of the 20th century an architect competition was launched and as its result the new awning and more comfortable auditorium was executed in the year 2000.
The Savonlinna Opera Festival is one of the most well-known opera festivals in the world. Its importance to the whole region of Savonlinna is significant. The walls of Olavinlinna offer unique setting to the opera experience.