Only the Sound Remains | World premiere of new opera by Kaija Saariaho

Only the Sound Remains | World premiere of new opera by Kaija Saariaho
On March 15 Only the Sound Remains, a new opera by Kaija Saariaho, will receive its world premiere at the Opera Forward Festival in Amsterdam. The production is directed by Saariaho's long-time collaborator Peter Sellars.

The opera sets two Nôh plays translated into English by Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenellosa – ‘Always Strong’ and ‘Feather Mantle’. Japanese Nôh theatre was born from the Buddhist idea that light is concealed largely in darkness, so as not to blind mere mortals. Saariaho releases this concealed light through her deeply felt music.

In the first play, ‘Always Strong’, a young lute player arrives in the celestial court following his death under violent circumstances. When alive, his playing was erotic and heavenly. But he cannot find happiness again. It is only his spirit which makes the lute sound as it used to, and this slowly disappears. ‘Only the sound remains…’

In ‘Feather Mantle’, a fisherman finds a cloak of feathers belonging to a female angel. He only wants to give the garment back if the angel dances for him, but she says she needs the cloak to do so. When the fisherman mistrusts her and says she must dance first, she answers that there is no deceit in heaven. Ashamed, the fisherman gives back the cloak and the angel performs heavenly dances, accompanied by heavenly music. Radiantly, she gradually ascends and disappears. 'Only the sound remains...'

The countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and bass baritone Davone Tines will take the audience on a unique journey through luminosity and darkness, visionary power and symbolism. The sound world will be defined by the ensemble consisting of flute, kantele, string quartet, percussion, electronics and a vocal ensemble. André de Ridder conducts.


About Kaija Saariaho
Kaija Saariaho is one of the most significant composers of our time. Her music is appreciated on a global level and has been commissioned by leading orchestras and festivals worldwide. Saariaho studied composition in Helsinki, Freiburg and Paris, where she has lived since 1982. Her studies and research at IRCAM have had a major influence on her music and her characteristically luxuriant and mysterious textures are often created by combining live music and electronics.

Saariaho’s music has often created luminosity from darkness, which gives the listener a magical experience. Through its visionary power it can engage and unite spectral opposites and emotional extremes.

Only the Sound Remains
An opera based on two Nôh plays: Always Strong (original title: Tsunemasa) and Feather Mantle (original title: Hagoromo). Libretto in English based on the translation by Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa

Co-commissioned by Dutsch National Opera, Opéra de Paris, Canadian Opera Company, Finnish National Opera and Teatro Real, Madrid

March 15, 19, 22, 24, 27, 29 2016 | Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam
June 10, 11, 18 2016 | Ojai Music Festival, USA

Kaija Saariaho Music
André de Ridder Conductor
Peter Sellars Stage Director
Julie Mehretu Stage Set
Robby Duiveman Costumes
James F. Ingalls Light design

Philippe Jaroussky Countertenor
Davone Tines Bass baritone

Eija Kankaanranta Kantele
Camilla Hoitenga Flute
Nora Kimball-Mentzos Dancer
Vocal quartet of the Netherlands Chamber Choir
Christophe Lebreton and David Poissonnier Electronics
Dudok Kwartet (Amsterdam performances) String Quartet
Niek KleinJan (Amsterdam performances) Percussion

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