La Passion de Simone is an oratorio for solo soprano, choir, orchestra, and electronics.
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I have been reading Simone Weil’s writings since my youth. The Finnish translation of her book Gravity and Grace was one of the few things I packed into my suitcase when I travelled to Germany in 1981 to continue my studies in composition. Later, I began to read her writings in the original French and also learned more about her life.
The combination of Weil’s severe asceticism and her passionate quest for truth has appealed to me ever since I first read her thoughts. La passion de Simone was specifically the result of collaboration with Amin Maalouf and Peter Sellars; together we chose the different parts of Weil’s work and life for the libretto before I began composing. Whereas I have always been fascinated by Simone’s striving for abstract (mathematical) and spiritual-intellectual goals, Peter is interested in her social awareness and political activities. Amin brought out the gaping discrepancy between her philosophy and her life, showing the fate of the frail human being amongst great ideas. In addition to Simone Weil’s life and ideas, many general questions of human existence are presented in Amin’s text.
La Passion consists of 15 stations. The idea for the form of the text and the entire work came from the Passion play tradition. This outer form is, however, the only similarity to the traditional oratorio, at least in my opinion. The 15 movements are different in character and structure, and they shed light on different moments in Simone Weil’s life and interpret some of her ideas. The soprano has the crucial role of the narrator. Weil’s own texts are presented in the electronics surrounding the audience. The choir and orchestra create the world in which live both the soprano part and the spoken words in the electronics part.
La Passion de Simone is dedicated to my children Alex and Aliisa.
© Kaija Saariaho
(translated by Ekhart Georgi)
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