COMPOSING OPERA TODAY
Kaija Saariaho is a prominent member of a group of Finnish artists who are making a worldwide impact. She studied in Helsinki, Fribourg, and Paris. At IRCAM in Paris, she developed techniques of computer-assisted composition and acquired fluency in working on tape and with live electronics. This experience influenced her approach to writing for orchestra, with its emphasis on the shaping of dense masses of sound in slow transformations. Significantly, her first orchestral piece, Verblendungen (1984), involves a gradual exchange of roles and character between orchestra and tape. And even the titles of her, linked, pair of orchestral works, Du Cristal (1989) and …à la Fumée (1990) suggest her preoccupation with color and texture. Although much of her catalogue comprises chamber works, she has turned increasingly to larger forces and broader structures, such as Orion (2004), Laterna Magica (2008), and Circle Map (2008).
The detailed notation using harmonics, microtonaly and detailed continuum of sound extending from pure tone to unpitched noise – all features found in one of her most frequently performed works, Graal Théâtre for violin and orchestra (1994). Her catalogue also includes Aile du songe (2001), Notes on Light (2006), D’OM LE VRAI SENS (2010), Maan Varjot (2014). In 2015, Gerald Finley and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, premiered True Fire for baritone and orchestra.
Since the late nineties, Saariaho has turned to opera, with outstanding success: L’Amour de Loin (2000), Adrian Mater (2006), Emilie (2010) and the oratorio La Passion de Simone (2006). Her opera Only the Sound Remains was premiered in March 2016 at The Dutch National Opera. Other performances will follow in Paris, Helsinki, Madrid and Toronto.
Saariaho has claimed many major composing awards including the Grawemeyer Award, the Wihuri Prize, the Nemmers Prize, the Sonning Prize, and the Polar Music Prize. In 2015, she was the judge of the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award.
Kaija Saariaho’s harp concerto Trans will get its world premiere in August 2016 by Xavier de Maistre and The Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ernest Martinez-Izquierdo at the Suntory Hall, Tokyo.
Additional events featuring Kaija Saariaho will take place in New York throughout the fall:
November 14, 5pm: Empathy and Action, a panel discussion conceived by Aleksi Barrière and organized by Mannes/The New School, at the Theresa Lang Community Center, Arnhold Hall, 55 W. 13th St.
November 19, 7pm, and November 20, 5pm: La Passion de Simone staged by Aleksi Barrière, with ICE Ensemble, La Chambre aux Échos from Paris, and students of Mannes/The New School, conducted by Clément Mao-Takacs at The Gerald Lynch Theatre, 524 W 59th St.
December 1-29, L'Amour de Loin, production by Robert Lepage, conducted by Susanna Malkki, with Susanna Phillips and Eric Owens, at the Metropolitan Opera.
A full schedule of events can be found here.