Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 15th of January 2017 at 6.04 - 9 pm
Sunday 28th of November 2010 at 3.04 - 5.20 pm
KAAIJA SAARIAHO: L'amour de loin (Love from afar)
an opera in five acts
In this Metropolitan Opera premiere of Finnish composer Kaija
Sariaho's opera, Eric Owens is the knight on a quest of love, Susanna
Phillips is his lover on the other side of the sea, and Tamara Mumford
is the pilgrim who brings messages back and forth. Conductor Susanna
Mälkki makes her Met debut
Clemence............ Susanna Phillips
The Pilgrim......... Tamara Mumford
Jaufré Rudel........ Eric Owens
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Susanna Mälkki
(Harmonia Mundi HMC 80 1937)
Jaufré Rudel.................. Daniel Belcher
Clémence...................... Ekaterina Lekhina
Pilgrim........................... Marie-Ange Todorovitch
Berlin Radio Chorus, German SO, Berlin/Kent Nagano
Kaaija Saariaaho is a Finnish composer (the J is sounded as y), and this is her first opera (2000); the French libretto is by Amin Maaluf, a Lebanese-French writer; both live in Paris, and have created three operas. The story comes from the 12th century, and the action is set in Aquitaine (in France) where Jaufré the troubador is longing for true love), and in Tripoli (in Lebanon, where the Countess Clémence lives, as the object of his affection), and on the Mediterranean Sea (when the dying poet travels to meet his faithful lover).
The music is enthralling; the accompaniment is not by a chamber orchestra, but a large band with a healthy array of percussion instruments
 Jaufré, a medieval courtly troubador, is weary of the pleasures of life, and he longs for a
different love, one far away, but he doubts that he
will ever find his ideal. His companions, laugh at
his dreams and declare that the woman he sings about does not exist. Then a
Pilgrim (male but sung by a mezzo-soprano)
tells Jaufré that such a woman does indeed exist; her name is Clémence, and the Pilgrim
has met her in Tripoli. Jaufré now devotes himself to thinking only of her.
 The Pilgrim returns to Tripoli, and tells the Countess Clémence about the prince-troubadour in France, who is extolling her in his songs, calling her his
“love from afar”. This disturbs her at first, but she begins to
dream of this faraway lover, and ponders whether she is worthy
to receive such devotion.
[3.1] The Pilgrim goes back to France and tells Jaufré that the lady now knows that he loves her. Jaufré decides that
he must travel to meet her.
[3.2] Clémence is uneasy about loving at a distance and the pain it entails.
 Jaufré sets out to meet his distant beloved, but his anxiety and uncertainty makes him ill; on the voyage the sickness increases, and.when he reaches Tripoli he is dying.
 Jaufré is carried on a pallet to meet Clémence. They embrace and affirm their love for each other; then
Jaufré dies in her arms. Clémence rages against Heaven, but holds
herself responsible for the tragedy. She decides to enter a convent, and
the last scene shows her praying to the “Love from afar”. Is this divine or human?
Video: L'Amour de loin with Dawn Upshaw, Gerald Finley, and Monica
Groop. Finnish National Opera, Helsinki production in 2004, conducted by
Esa-Pekka Salonen. Directed by Peter Sellars.
Audio: Daniel Belcher, Ekaterina Lekhina and Marie-Ange Todorovitch; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Kent Nagano, conductor; Martin Sauer, producer (harmonia mundi, 2009)
And the New York Metropera will show its new production in cinemas in 2017.
Another collaboration by these two artists is Émilie (2008) about another countess, Marquise Émilie du Châtelet, (1706 - 1749), who lived in a castle with Voltaire, for a time; being a brilliant scientist she translated Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica into French, with her own commentary, and she did research on the nature of fire. She died after bearing her fourth child (fathered not by her husband, nor by Voltaire, but a poet with whom she was amorously linked).