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Monday, May 19, 2014
May is a busy month for composer Kaija Saariaho, beginning with the Austrian premiere of the opera Emilie which will take place on May 24 at Salzburger Landestheater in a new production by Agnessa Nefjodov and conducted by Leo Hussain. Allison Cook will create the role of Èmilie du Châtelet – a French mathematician, physicist, and author during the Age of Enlightenment. Her crowning achievement is considered to be her translation and commentary on Isaac Newton's work Principia Mathematica. The translation is still considered the standard French translation. The opera depicts moments in her life when she is writing letters to her lovers and companions with her being aware that she does not have many more days to live – a breath taking opera for soprano, electronics and small orchestra which will also be presented in March 2015 at the Finish National Opera.

The French premiere of the chamber version of Saariaho’s La Passion de Simone will take place at the Festival St Denis on May 27. La Passion de Simone is a literary and musical journey in fifteen stations, modelled after Bach’s Passions. Here, we follow the life and work of Simone Weil, enlightened Jewish philosopher, mystic, and pacifist, who fought against the Spanish Civil War, Nazism, and Stalinism.

This re-creation is led and fervently upheld by a team of young talents: philosopher and director Aleksi Barrière, the Secession Orchestra and its conductor Clement Mao-Takacs, and soloist Karen Vourc’h, who is well acquainted with Saariaho’s work and also shares a genealogical link with Simone Weil. Her voice is the public’s alter ego, interrogating the world, while the voice of the actress stands for Simone’s voice. The choir adds a third voice, that of a commentator, in the tradition of ancient Greek drama. This new chamber version exalts the myriad colours of the orchestra—a French premiere, exclusive to the Festival which was co-commissioned by Music Centre Slovakia, Melos-Ethos Festival and Festival de Saint-Denis - with the support of Adami and Spedidam.

Saariaho then travels to Montreal for the world premiere of her new work Maan Varjot (Earth’s Shadows) on May 29 with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, organist Olivier Latry and conductor by Kent Nagano. The new work then travels to Lyon where Nagano conducts the Orchestre National de Lyon on June 19. One week later on June 26 the Philharmonia, the work’s third commissioner, will give the UK premiere with Latry under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen. Saariaho says of the new work “Unlike some other instruments, the organ doesn't need to fight to rise above the orchestra; it can do it any time, effortlessly. But I didn't want to create a duel of decibels, and I don't consider this piece an organ concerto. Rather, it is a work with a prominent solo organ part, some kind of a fruitful and inspiring companionship, in which two strong but civilised personalities can co-exist without having to fight too much for the place in the sun.”

The Finnish title 'Maan varjot' (Earth's shadows) was inspired by some lines in Shelley's ode to John Keats:
The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
I chose the title in memory of my father.”


On July 30, The Aeolian Chamber Players will give the world premiere of Light and Matter as part of the Bowdoin Festival. This new piano trio was commissioned by the Library of Congress, Britten Sinfonia and Norrbotten NEO and co-commissioned by the Aeolian Chamber Players in honour of the 50th anniversary of the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

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