The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s acclaimed 2000 opera revolves around a medieval troubadour in search of love with a libretto by the Lebanese novelist Amin Maalouf.
The December 10 performance of L’Amour de Loin will be transmitted live around the world at 1:00 pm ET hosted by Deborah Voigt. In the Berkshires it can be seen at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington and at the Clark Art Insitute in Williamstown. In fact, the transmission will be seen in more than 2,000 movie theaters in 70 countries around the world. At the Mahaiwe Scott Eyerly will give his opera talk beginning at 11:30am, and the performance begins at 1:00pm. The running time is 2 hours and 33 minutes, with one intermission, three hours all told. More information on the Met’s web site, www.metopera.org.
Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin (“Love From Afar”), one of the most highly praised operas of recent years, had its Met premiere on December 1, 2016 in a production directed by Robert Lepage and conducted by Susanna Mälkki in her Met debut. Lepage’s staging, which uses thousands of LED lights to create the sea that separates the opera’s distant lovers, is a co-production with L’Opéra de Québec, where it premiered to acclaim in the summer of 2015. Susanna Phillips stars as Clémence, the Countess of Tripoli, opposite Eric Owens as Jaufré Rudel, a troubadour on a quest to find his perfect love, and Tamara Mumford as the Pilgrim who carries messages back and forth between them.
Robert Lepage, known for directing the Met’s productions of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, and Thomas Adès’s The Tempest, leads a production team featuring Michael Curry as set and costume designer, Kevin Adams as lighting designer, Lionel Arnould as lightscape image designer, Mark Grey as sound designer, and Sybille Wilson as assistant director.
Composer and Libretto Bios
Kaija Saariaho is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading contemporary composers. Her first opera, L’Amour de Loin, premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2000 and has subsequently been performed at Santa Fe Opera, Paris Opera, Finnish National Opera, English National Opera, and the Canadian Opera Company, among others. Saariaho’s other operas include Adriana Mater, which premiered at the Opèra Bastille in 2008, and the monodrama Émilie, which premiered in Lyon in 2010. This past March, her opera Only the Sound Remains, premiered at the Dutch National Opera. The Finnish composer is also known for song-cycles, oratorios, and other orchestral works. Many Saariaho works can be seen this fall in New York City, where her compositions have been or will be performed at the Park Avenue Armory, Mannes School of Music, Juilliard School, 92nd St. Y, and others.
Amin Maalouf wrote the libretto for L’Amour de Loin and is a frequent collaborator with Kaija Saariaho. He has previously written the librettos for her oratorio La Passion de Simone and monodrama Émilie, as well as Saariaho’s second opera, Adriana Mater. Maalouf has written a number of fiction and non-fiction works, typically focusing on characters experiencing the limitations of places, languages, and religions, as well as highlighting his experiences with civil war and migration. His fictional works include Leo Africanus, The Gardens of Light, and Balthasar’s Odyssey; however, his most well-known work is the nonfiction historical essay, The Crusades Through Arab Eyes.
Cast and Conductor Bios
Susanna Mälkki makes her Met debut conducting L’Amour de Loin. The Finnish conductor has led at multiple opera houses around the world including the Finnish National Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Paris Opera, and La Scala. After leading L’Amour de Loin, she will conduct concerts with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Paris National Opera Orchestra and conduct the world premiere of Luca Francesconi’s Trompe-la-mort at the Paris Opera. Previously, she was the Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain and Artistic Director of Stavanger Symfoniorkester. She is currently the Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a Principal Guest Conductor of the Gulbenkian Orchestra. During the 2017-18 season, she will be a Principal Guest Conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Susanna Phillips has sung 100 Met performances to date. She made her company debut as Musetta in 2008, a role she has sung 36 times at the Met. The American soprano is a recipient of the Beverly Sills Award and a winner of the 2005 Met National Council Auditions. Past roles with the company include Stella and Antonia in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Pamina and Fiordiligi in Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Così fan tutte, and Rosalinde in Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. In January, she will reprise Musetta in La Bohème and then sing Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Zurich Opera.
Tamara Mumford has previously sung the Pilgrim last year at the Festival Opera de Québec. She is a graduate of the Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and has sung roles such as Margaret in Berg’s Wozzeck, Hippolyta in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Pauline in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Dryade in Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, and Smeton in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena at the Met. Her most recent credits with other companies include Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter in Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at the Philadelphia Opera and Marta in Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta at the Dallas Opera.
Eric Owens adds a new role to his Met repertory as Jaufré Rudel. As a winner of the 1996 Met’s National Council Auditions, he made his company debut in 2008 as General Leslie Groves in John Adams’s Doctor Atomic, followed by roles as Sarastro in The Magic Flute and Alberich in the Ring Cycle. After singing the role of Jaufré, he will star as the Water Sprite in a new staging of Dvořák’s Rusalka and the Voice of Neptune in Mozart’s Idomeneo at the Met.
Director and Creative Team Bios
Robert Lepage has directed three previous productions at the Met: Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, which premiered in 2008; a production of Wagner’s four-part epic Der Ring des Nibelungen during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons; and the Met premiere of Thomas Ades’s The Tempest in 2012. His other opera stagings include the double bill of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Schoenberg’s Erwartung, Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, Maazel’s 1984, and Stravinsky’s The Nightingale and Other Short Fables with the Canadian Opera Company. The multi-disciplinary artist has directed, written, and acted in several films and written and directed multiple plays.
Sybille Wilson makes her Met debut as the assistant director for L’Amour de Loin. Since 2002, she has helped stage productions at the Frankfurt Opera, Marseille Opera, Opera Festival of Aix en Provence, and Teatre Royal de la Monnaie. Wilson has also been a revival director for the San Francisco Opera, La Scala, Bastille Opera, Teatro Real in Madrid, and Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Following L’Amour de Loin, she will direct “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with the National Orchestra of the Pays de Loire.
Michael Curry has previously worked with the company as the Puppet Designer for Die Zauberflöte. He has previously worked with Lepage as the puppet designer for the Cirque du Soleil show Kà. His work can be seen across many platforms, including the puppets and costumes for The Lion King on Broadway, the three most recent winter Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, as well as Super Bowls and attractions at Disney World and California Adventure.
Kevin Adams made his Met debut as the lighting designer for Michael Mayer’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. He has been the lighting designer for Bennett’s The Mines of Sulfur at the Glimmerglass Opera, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at the Washington National Opera, and Handel’s Giulio Cesare at the Canadian Opera Company. He has won four Tony Awards as the lighting designer for Spring Awakening, The 39 Steps, American Idiot, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Lionel Arnould made his Met debut in 2012 as the video image artist for Lepage’s production of Götterdämmerung, part of the Ring Cycle, which premiered at the Met in 2012. He also was an additional video artist for Lepage’s Die Walküre, which premiered the season prior at the Met and the Image Designer for Maazel’s 1984 at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden.
During the 2008-09 season, Mark Grey made his Met debut as the sound designer for John Adams’s Doctor Atomic. During the 2014-15 season, he was the sound designer for the double bill of Bluebeard’s Castle and Iolanta, followed by John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer and Lehár’s The Merry Widow. He has collaborated on many other works outside of opera including concerts with the Park Avenue Armory and at Royal Festival Hall in London and theatre productions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago including Show Boat, Carousel, The Sound of Music, and Oklahoma!
L’Amour de Loin Related Events
The Mannes School of Music will present two staged performances of Saariaho’s oratorio La Passion de Simone, in its 2013 chamber version, with libretto by Amin Maalouf on Saturday and Sunday, November 19 and 20, at the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Clément Mao-Takacs will conduct the International Contemporary Ensemble in this production from the French musical theater company La Chambre aux échoes. For more information, visit here.
At the Florence Gould Hall, French Institute Alliance Française, Met General Manager Peter Gelb will moderate a conversation with Saariaho and Maalouf, “Discovering L’Amour de Loin at the Metropolitan Opera,” on Monday, November 21, 2016. The discussion will feature musical excerpts from the opera, as well as other collaborations of the composer and librettist in this co-presentation with the French Institute Alliance Française.
L’Amour de Loin Fun Facts
Kaija Saariaho had never considered writing an opera until 1992, when she attended Messiaen’s ”St. Francois d’Assise” at the Salzburg Festival, directed by Peter Sellars. She became familiar with the story of Jaufré Rudel, and over the course of the next eight years, the idea for L’Amour de Loin evolved. After securing an advanced commission from the Salzburg Festival, the Finnish composer began writing L’Amour de Loin with Amin Maalouf, who was also living in Paris and a voluntary exile just like Saariaho.
L’Amour de Loin premiered in 2000 at the Salzburg Festival directed by Peter Sellars starring Dawn Upshaw as Clémence and Dwayne Croft as Jaufré Rudel, which received critical success. In 2002, L’Amour de Loin had its U.S. premiere at the Santa Fe Opera with Upshaw reprising the role of Clémence and Gerald Finley as Jaufré Rudel. In 2003, the composition received the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.