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Kaija Saariaho

Publisher: Chester Music

Only The Sound Remains (2015)
Commissioned by Dutch National Opera, Finnish National Opera, Opera de Paris, Teatro Real Madrid and Canadian Opera Company.
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
2015
Duration
1 Hour 55 Minutes
Chorus
vocal ensemble (SATB)
Language
English
Soloist
countertenor, bass baritone
Availability
Unavailable Explain this...
Programme Note
Kaija Saariaho Only The Sound Remains (2015)
BRIEF SYNOPSIS

Only the Sound Remains combines two short operas inspired by Nôh dramas: Always strong (original title Tsunemasa) and Feather mantle (Hagoromo), based on translations by Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa.

In Always Strong, a young lute player named Tsunemasa returns as a spirit to the court following his death under violent circumstances. When alive, his playing on the Biwa lute was erotic and heavenly but he cannot find happiness again. The monk Gyōkei contacts the spirit and offers the Biwa lute before the altar of the deceased and performs a service with music. Tsunemasa’s spirit touches the lute briefly before disappearing slowly.

In Feather Mantle, a fisherman named Hakuryō goes fishing with his companions and finds a beautiful robe hung on a pine branch. When he attempts to take it home as a family heirloom, a celestial maiden appears and asks him to return the robe to her. At first, Hakuryō refuses to return it. However he is moved by the celestial maiden who laments that she cannot go home to heaven without it. The fisherman argues with her and finally promises to return it if she will show to him her dance or at least part of it. She accepts his offer and eventually disappears in the haze, beyond the peak of Mount Fuji – only the sound remains.


Preview the score



Performances
Date
Title
  • 17 NOV 2018
    Only The Sound Remains Country Premiere
    White Light Festival
    Rose Theater, Lincoln Center, New York, NY
    Eija Kankaanranta, kantele / Camilla Hoitenga, flute / Heikki Parviainen, percussion / Meta4 / Theatre of Voices
    Philippe Jaroussky, counter tenor / Davóne Tines, bass baritone / Peter Sellars, stage director / Julie Mehretu, stage design; Ernest Martinez-Izquierdo , conductor

    Other Dates:
    18 November - Rose Theater, Lincoln Center, New York, NY
  • 23 OCT 2018
    Only The Sound Remains Country Premiere
    Teatro Real, Madrid
    Eija Kankaanranta, kantele / Camilla Hoitenga, flute / Heikki Parviainen, percussion / Meta4 / Theatre of Voices
    Philippe Jaroussky, counter tenor / Davóne Tines, bass baritone / Peter Sellars, stage director / Julie Mehretu, stage design; Ivor Bolton, conductor

    Other Dates:
    29 October; 5,7,9 November; 26,31 October - Teatro Real, Madrid
  • 23 JAN 2018
    Only The Sound Remains Country Premiere
    Palais Garnier, Opera de Paris
    Eija Kankaanranta, kantele / Camilla Hoitenga, flute / Heikki Parviainen, percussion / Meta4 / Theatre of Voices
    Philippe Jaroussky, counter tenor / Davóne Tines, bass baritone / Peter Sellars, stage director / Julie Mehretu, stage design; Ernest Martinez-Izquierdo, conductor

    Other Dates:
    25 January; 1,4,7 February; 27 January - Palais Garnier, Opera de Paris
  • 12 APR 2017
    Only The Sound Remains Country Premiere
    Finnish National Opera, Helsinki
    Eija Kankaanranta, kantele / Camilla Hoitenga, flute / Heikki Parviainen, percussion / Meta4
    Anthony Roth Costanzo, counter tenor / Davóne Tines, bass baritone / Peter Sellars, stage director / Julie Mehretu, stage design; André de Ridder, conductor

    Other Dates:
    15,22,27,29 April - Finnish National Opera, Helsinki
  • 15 MAR 2016
    Only The Sound Remains World Premiere
    Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Eija Kankaanranta, kantele / Camilla Hoitenga, flute / Niek KleinJan, percussion / Dudok Kwartet
    Philippe Jaroussky, counter tenor / Davóne Tines, bass baritone / Peter Sellars, stage director / Julie Mehretu, stage design; André de Ridder, conductor

    Other Dates:
    19,22,24,27,29 March - Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Reviews
The text and sounds of Saariaho connect with the painting [by the Ethiopian artist Julie Mehretu]. The massive shadows of a monk, a spirit, an angel projected upon light canvases. The images created are of an unreal beauty. Light and dark, distance and proximity, earthly and heavenly all go hand in hand. Conductor André de Ridder ensures in an admirable way that the sounds of the instruments and the voices of the singers project from the stage. In carefully selected passages they are transformed by the electronics and lay like a garland around the audience.
Biëlla Luttmer , deVolkskrant,18/03/2016
Saariaho’s symphonic soundscapes benefit from their brevity and compact intensity, where her longer operas sometimes suffer from intermittent monotony. With Only the Sounds Remains, the Finnish composer has created two intense experiences as a double bill, thereby avoiding the pitfalls of length. Saariaho’s music originates from spectralism, soundscapes focusing on colour and texture. Through Eija Kankaanranta’s kantele play, Camilla Hoitenga’s variety of flutes, and the plethora of percussion managed by Niek Kleinjan, the composer creates her distinct ethereal style. […] Saariaho’s fascinating application of electronica enriched her score. David Poissonnier’s sound projections seamlessly entwined the music with electronics.These effects do not function as instruments, but enhanced her music with glowing aureoles, outstretched tones, and rhythmic vocal repetitions. Exciting peaks emerged through the remarkable stereophonic effects that created a surround sound enveloping the audience from all sides, often with ghostly results. Saariaho composed specifically for Jaroussky’s angelic countertenor. She builds a captivating vocal world, revealing a refreshingly different side to the famous singer. With the electronics his highly piercing voice seemed surrounded by a halo, entrancing your mind, making you forget everything except the beauty on stage. […] Jaroussky and Davone Tines, whose earthly, deep voice exquisitely contrasted the countertenor’s rarified voice, generated a sensuality that Sellars suspensefully guided through Saariaho’s slowburning musical tension, resulting in several highly charged moments on stage.
David Pinedo, Bachtrack,17/03/2016
There is mainly a lot of twinkling meditative music, with a few characters on stage in front of a life-size abstract painting and with an ingenious light direction that gives the show atmosphere, color and emotion. It is simultaneously state of the art yet, considering its form, just as traditional as an opera by Monteverdi. It is archaic and modern, cleverly balanced between East and West, earthly and spiritual.
Oswin Schneeweisz, Theaterkrant,16/03/2016
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