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Subject: No amour from FT review for Saariaho's opera at the Met
From: janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 4 Dec 2016 16:50:56 -0800
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http://tinyurl.com/j9fhrks
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OPERA

L’'Amour de Loin
Metropolitan Opera, New York
MARTIN BERNHEIMER


Kaija Saariaho's "L’Amour de Loin," which received what could seem a
belated premiere at the Met on Thursday, may be the rarest of rare birds: a
modern opera that is actually popular. Initially ventured at the Salzburg
Festival in 2000, it arrived in the U.S., thanks to enterprising Santa Fe,
two years later. By now, the challenge has been met in ten different
productions on three continents.

Most observers seem to love this "L’Amour”,: with its ongoing
philosophical meanderings – mostly solos and duets – on the true, mortal,
mystifying meaning of love. Some have complained, however, that the music is
repetitive and the libretto by Amin Maalouf simplistic. Count this observer
among the some.

Those who fall under Saariaho’'s spell find the piece poetic and
profound. Those who don'’t find it precious and pretentious.

For two long hours (plus interval), the hero moans, sputters and
groans about unattainable joy. The anguished heroine dwells on
psycho-spiritual metamorphoses. An incidental Pilgrim, in pretty drag,
functions as a moral referee of sorts. The composer dresses her reveries in
clangorous Sprechgesang, aborted melodies, and gentle contemporary
harmonies. Everything, of course, is painfully amplified.

The staging – directed by Robert Lepage, designed by Michael Curry
and crucially lit by Kevin Adams and Lionel Arnould – places the inaction on
a shimmering-flickering rake made up of a zillion, much publicised LED
bulbs. These support a floating mechanical contraption conveniently equipped
with stairs. It comes and goes on cue and, most of the time, houses the
resident soprano. Everything looks slick and snazzy.

Despite theatrical vagaries, musical standards remained lofty.
Susanna Mälkki, making her house debut, conducted with verve that never
precluded accuracy. Eric Owens exuded strength and valour as the nobleman
who loves, from a distance, both unwisely and unwell. Susanna Phillips
simpered strongly and sweetly as his semi-ethereal idol. Tamara Mumford
re-explained everything neatly as the overworked Pilgrim.

Incidental intelligence: "L’Amour de Loin" is the second opera by a
woman to be performed by the Met. The first, Ethel M. Smyth'’s "Der Wald,"
turned up briefly in 1903.

###

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