Gearing up for “L’Amour de Loin” Opening & Live in HD Broadcast
On December 1, 2016, the opening performance of L’Amour de Loin will mark the first time a work by a female composer has been performed at the Metropolitan Opera since 1903. Kaija Saariaho’s premiere at the Met will also coincide with the house debut of female conductor Susanna Mälkki, and will star Susanna Phillips as Clémence opposite Eric Owens.
L’Amour de Loin will be able to be seen around the world through the Met’s Live in HD broadcast on Saturday December 10th (1pm EST) and repeat showings following. The production runs from Dec 1-29.
This historic production has been profiled in numerous publications, below are a few samplings:
From “Your Guide to a Met Opera Milestone,” by Zachary Woolfe, New York Times, Nov 2016:
The story couldn’t be simpler, and the opera deepens not through the complexity of the plot, but from the emotional weight of living with these characters in a kind of contemplative stillness. (We aren’t in “La Bohème” anymore, Toto. “L’Amour de Loin” feels more like it’s suspended in space.) The work moves back and forth, like a kind of pendulum, from Jaufré (a baritone role) to Clémence (soprano), with the Pilgrim (mezzo-soprano) acting as go-between, transmitting the prince-troubadour’s songs to the countess.
POLITICAL RESONANCES “Though it was not intended as such,” Anthony Tommasini wrote in his review of the 2000 premiere in The New York Times, “‘L’Amour de Loin’ provides a jolt of sanity amid the political conflicts that of late have been rattling the world, Austria in particular, over issues of nationality, immigration, the sanctity of borders and the cultural gulf between the West and the East.”
From “The Troubadour and the Lady,” by Daniel Wenger, The New Yorker, Nov 2016:
In her work, Saariaho operates at the border of music and noise. Her territory, whether she is composing for solo flute or symphony orchestra, is texture—what’s sometimes referred to as sound color. “Listeners who ordinarily are terrified of new music and experimental music are enchanted by Saariaho,” Susan McClary, a musicologist who teaches Saariaho’s work at Case Western Reserve University, told me. “Long after the curtain goes down, you feel that you are still swimming along in her sound. Those colors continue to be with you.”
Sixteen years ago, at the Salzburg Festival, critics hailed the début of Saariaho’s avant-garde “L’Amour de Loin,” the first of her three operas, which comes to New York next month. As the title suggests, the story concerns a long-distance love, between a troubadour in medieval France and a countess in Tripoli. At the Met, the stage will be adorned with a Mediterranean Sea of fifty thousand L.E.D. lights, designed by the Québécois theatre impresario Robert Lepage. He has said of Saariaho, “I felt that she was trying to express musically what it is to be sitting, separated by the sea. It swells, and it swells, and it swells, and it swells.”
From the profile on Saariaho “The Oceanic Music of Kajia Saariaho,” by Alex Ross, The New Yorker, Nov 2016:
Saariaho may have had her crises of doubt, but from the start she knew what she wanted. Her elemental idea, which can be found in dozens of her scores, is an oceanic expanse of sound, one that shifts before one’s ears and quivers with hidden life. She first captured it in Paris, in the early eighties, when she was based at ircam, Pierre Boulez’s center for music and technology. She had come in contact with the Spectralist school of composers, the likes of Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail, who were analyzing the acoustic properties of sound and deriving musical structures from them. Saariaho’s work, like theirs, moves between extremes of pure tone and noise, often finding a cryptic beauty in the middle zone. The opening gesture of “L’Amour de Loin” is exemplary: from a deep, shuddering B-flat a complex chord of overtones accumulates, seeming to resound not only in space but within the mind. We have entered the consciousness of the troubadour Jaufré Rudel, who, in the first scene, is seen composing a chanson and contemplating unachievable love.