Finland's Saariaho: "Music is mystery - like love"

Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:38am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's music has taken the opera houses, concert halls and audiences of the world by storm. Just don't ask her why.

"I think music is really one of the big mysteries in our life and for me it's in the same category as love," Saariaho, who is 56 and whose music has been described as "dreamlike" and haunting, told Reuters in an interview.

"Music has enormous powers and it's part of everybody's life in some form -- so I cannot answer that question, really."

The slender, bright-eyed, elfin Saariaho spoke on the eve of the London premiere of "L'Amour de Loin" (Love from afar), an opera for three singers and chorus based on a true story about an unconsummated "courtly" love affair between the pining troubadour Jaufre Rudel from France and Clemence, the Countess of Tripoli, in whose arms he dies after a voyage to see her.

The opera had its premiere in Salzburg in 2000 and has had many productions since, but the version at the English National Opera is one Saariaho admits she would not have permitted nine years ago. It will be sung in English, instead of the original French, and will have acrobats from Cirque du Soleil on stage.

"Well, yes, there seem to be people who are quite acrobatic...but this thing about the director's view, I've gotten used to it because this is the seventh production so there have been...very different kinds of 'L'Amour de Loins'.

"It is living its own life so I told myself, 'Why not?'" Here's what else she had to say about her music, her influences, and why living in France is good therapy for a Finn.

Q: Your music is described as a "dreamscape" or as having an "icy beauty." Would you subscribe to any of that?   Continued...