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Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho's <br><i>L'Amour de loin</i>

Kaija Saariaho's
L'Amour de loin

Review by Kenji Fujishima

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Saariaho’s work has become of the few twenty-first-century operas to reach anything close to global popularity, and the reason for that can be glimpsed in one of the other operas the Metropolitan Opera has staged this season, the more canonically established Tristan und Isolde. Like Richard Wagner’s masterpiece, L’Amour de loin is also about forbidden love—albeit one hindered by distance rather than social and emotional boundaries. Saariaho’s opera even has a Brangäne equivalent in a seafaring Pilgrim who acts as a go-between for both Jaufré Rudel, the hopeless-romantic troubadour/Prince of Blaye, and Clémence, the Countess of Tripoli who yearns to return to her childhood home of Toulouse. And like Tristan, L’Amour de loin culminates in a Liebestod of its own. In Saariaho’s case, it may only be one character who physically dies rather than both, but the implication of a death that’s as much fulfillment as tragedy is remarkably similar.

Kaija Saariaho's <br><i>Let the Wind Speak</i>

Kaija Saariaho's
Let the Wind Speak

Review by Angus McPherson

Although electronic music and blends of acoustic and electronic sound were an important part of Saariaho’s palette in the earlier stages of her career, both these discs feature only acoustic works. The virtuosic manipulation of color in these works, however, demonstrates that the haunting sense of transcendence for which Saariaho’s music is known is by no means limited to her work with electronics.