Kaija Saariaho, opera composer

Charles Downey of Ionarts wrote today:

Tonight was the big night in Paris, the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s new opera, Adriana Mater, at the Opéra national de Paris. It was to have been the jewel in the crown of a challenging and adventurous season of opera, the Opéra national de Paris’s commission of a new opera by the Finnish composer, whose L’Amour de Loin was such a sensation at the Salzburg Festival in 2000.

Unfortunately the premiere has been cancelled because of a strike. So, instead of commenting on the expected reviews, Ionarts wrote about the composer’s earlier works.

Thanks to this piece, I became inspired and curious to find out more about this famous Finnish woman composer that I knew very little about. Virtual Finland’s article* states that Kaija Saariaho was born in 1952 in Helsinki, and received her music education at the Sibelius Academy. She has composed numerous works since 1982 and concerts of her work have been performed at the Savonlinna Opera Festival, London, Paris,Vienna and Jakarta. She was winner of the Prix Italia, 1988 and of the Recording of the year award from the Finnish Broadcasting Company, 1993. In 2003 she was the winner of one of the world’s biggest prizes for composition, the Grawemeyer prize for 2003. Worth $200,000 US, Kaija Saariaho won it for her first opera L’Amour de Loin.

The prize means a lot because with L’Amour de Loin I stepped into a new area, after which my life and my music changed, said Saariaho in a statement. I have found from within the world of opera in all its glory. Interestingly her earlier work involved “electronics, with computer-analyzed sonorities shifting imperceptibly into new ones”, so it is indeed a big shift. Writing opera has certainly catapulted her to great fame and demand. What an amazing woman!

Now I must find me some of her recordings – L’amour de Loin sounds wonderful.

By the way, Charles Downey is quite the admirer of Finnish music, especially opera, which he has attributed to Finland’s excellent music education.

April 4th, 2006: The news in Helsingin Sanomat today: Adriana Mater opera’s world première is big success in Paris. The opera premiered last night after being postponed from last Thursday.

April 5th: Ionarts reports on the mixed reviews in the French press.

April 15th: A very interesting interview with the production’s conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen (by Shirley Apthorp, Bloomberg News). Despite an enthusiastic response from the public, the French press response was not glowing. “Everything is political in Paris,” Salonen says. “To damn this opera is to take a swipe at Mortier. And here you had a Lebanese librettist, a Finnish composer and an American director coming to Paris to do an opera at the country’s national house . . .”

Thanks again to ionarts!

* link has expired and has been removed

March 30, 2006 in Finland, Estonia & Finno-Ugric, Music by Marja-Leena