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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Metropolitan Opera Preview: L'Amour de Loin

Long distance love is the subject of Kaija Saariaho's 21st century opera.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Keep 'em separated: Susanna Philips and Eric Owens in L'Amour de Loin. 
Image © 2016 The Metropolitan Opera.
Sixteen years after its Salzburg premiere and fourteen years after the first North American performances, the Metropolitan Opera finally stages L'Amour de Loin ("Love From Afar") by contemporary Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, in a new production by Robert Lepage.

What is L'Amour de Loin?
Sung in French, to a five-act libretto by Amin Maalouf, this is an in-depth exploration of the idea of courtly love. It is the first opera by Ms. Saariaho, whose sere, searching music has thrilled listeners in New York for many years now. This opera is an international success with stagings in Helsinki, Berlin and London to its credit. This is Ms. Saariaho's first work to be presented at the Metropolitan Opera.

What's L'Amour de Loin about?
It is the story of doomed French troubadour Jaufré Rudel and his obsessive love for Clémence, the countess of Tripoli. A third central character, the Pilgrim, carries messages of love back and forth between the two. Back in the 12th century, long distance relationships didn't have the benefit of the Internet.

Could I hear some of the music before I buy tickets?
Sure. Here's an excerpt:
Gerald Finley as Jaufré in a scene from L'Amour de Loin.
Footage © 2004 Deutsche Grammophon/Unitel

Who's in it?
One of the reasons to see this modern opera is the presence of Eric Owens as Jaufré. The powerful American bass-baritone is always a compelling figure onstage. Susanna Philips is Clémence, the object of his desire. Tamara Mumford, fresh from a triumphant appearance as Arsace in the Caramoor premiere of Aurelian in Palmira sings the key role of the Pilgrim. Most importantly, this run marks the Met podium debut of Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki.

How's the production?
Not much is known at this point, although the Met website does mention the image of a rainbow bridge of LEDs that will extend across the stage and even over the house orchestra pit. The staging is by Robert Lepage, who has had a mixture of success (La Damnation de Faust, The Tempest) and failure (Der Ring des Nibelungen) at America's largest opera house.

When does L'Amour de Loin? open?
The production bows on Dec. 1. The Live in HD telecast is scheduled for the Dec. 10 matinee performance.

Where do I get tickets?
Tickets  are available through MetOpera.Org or by calling the box office at (212) 362-6000. You can save service fees by going to the box office in person at the Met itself, located at 30 Lincoln Center Plaza. Hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am-8pm, Sunday: 12pm-6pm.

It's a new opera. Is there a recording?
Yes. A production in Finland was filmed and released by Deutsche Grammophon in 2004. Also, Kent Nagano recorded the opera with the Deutsche-Oper Berlin in 2009. It is available from the harmonia mundi label. 

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