Magazine article Musical Opinion

L'Amour De Loin

Magazine article Musical Opinion

L'Amour De Loin

Article excerpt

When does devotion become obsession; can one 'love' someone who is as yet unknown, unseen and unmet; how far should one go in this search; where does reality cross over into illusion? These and other questions were explored if not resolved, in ENO 's final opera of the season on July 3.

Finnish composer Kai ja Saariaho's first opera finally reached these shores when it premiered at ENO, having been pretty much everywhere else since Salzburg in 2000. This event that was publicised as 'all tickets no more than £20' was certainly less than fully seated at the beginning and far more so after the interval.

L'Amour de loin, which translates as Love from afar, is a true story from the twelfth century of Jaufré Rudel, troubadour and Prince of Blaye. It's the story of courtly love and crucially unattainable love. Here, one loves from afar, the title of this opera. Prince Jaufré is told by a pilgrim, back from the Crusades, about the beautiful Clémence, Countess of Tripoli. Jaufré decides instantly that he will love her forever (sight unseen) and sets off to see her. In the interim, Clémence is told that a Prince loves her and she states that she must love him. Jaufré is very ill on the boat journey there and lands at Tripoli, living just long enough to die in the arms of his beloved, she still unseen as now unconscious. She retreats to a nunnery where she spends the rest of her life. To our modern eyes and ears this is both absurd, fantastic and deeply sad, but to the early mediaeval mind it was instead sublime and, in an age obsessed with death and the afterlife, a 'good death' and therefore a happy ending. …

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