Kaija Saariaho’s “L’amour de loin” at the Canadian Opera Company

Lisa and I just attended the opening performance by the Canadian Opera Company of Kaija Saariaho’s hauntingly beautiful opera L’amour de loin (Love from Afar).  This was the second opera we had seen there and I have to say I absolutely love the venue: intimate, stylish, classy. My experience there was as enjoyable if not more so than our last, and I think now it is my favorite opera venue.

The production was fantastic.  The use of doubles was tasteful, as was the use of acrobats.  The latter could easily be a simple spectacle, but here I felt it was well done, very much adding to the experience of the work.  The production accomplished such a wonderful surrealism: I found myself enchanted by, and lost in the work throughout.

The three main singers performed admirably (Russell Braun as Jaufré Rudel, Erin Wall as Clémence, and Krisztina Szabò as The Pilgrim).  Braun’s voice really opened up in Acts IV and V, while the other two were spot on throughout. The music was generally performed excellently, though I did feel like the chorus could have been a little better: adequate, but not exceptional.

Overall, I found the work incredibly gripping, the love so painful, so beautiful.  Powerful and subtle.  Mesmerizing. I have long enjoyed Saariaho’s work, and although I have owned a copy of the DVD for quite some time, I had not seen it before, something I will certainly do when we return home from Toronto.  (I am very curious to see another production…) Just from my experience today though, I would easily say it is a major work that I would be surprised if it was not a common work in the repertoire many years from now.

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