Magazine article Opera Canada

L'Amour De Loin: Saariaho

Magazine article Opera Canada

L'Amour De Loin: Saariaho

Article excerpt

L'AMOUR DE LOIN

Saariaho

Upshaw, Finley, Groop, Finnish National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor. Peter Sellars, stage and video director

Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish

DG: 00440 073 4026 (1 DVD/156 minutes)

L'Amour de loin (Love from Afar), the first opera of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, has been hailed as a Tristan und Isolde for the 21st century. The libretto, written by the celebrated Lebanese author, Amin Maalouf, is loosely based on the life of the 12th-century troubadour, Jaufre Rudel, Prince of Blaye, and his obsession with Clemence, Countess of Tripoli, a woman he has only heard of and never actually met.

While there is little action in Maalouf's story, Saariaho bathes his poetic French text with hypnotically beautiful sounds. As for Tristan, L'Amour de loin shares a similar spiritual ethos: a sense of yearning--of love unattainable--which finds resolution only with the hero's death and the heroine's spiritual transfiguration. "The tension," as the composer has stated, "comes mostly from the inner lives of the protagonists."

Saariaho, who was born in Finland in 1952, has lived, studied and worked in Paris since 1982. And although one is aware of certain French influences in her music (notably Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande and Messiaen's St. Francois d'Assise), L'Amour de loin is no pale pastiche. In fact, Saariaho's musical voice is uniquely her own: eclectic, to be sure, but one that is utterly compelling in its mix of eastern and western, ancient and modern, acoustic and electronic music. …

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