sat 22/02/2020

Kaija Saariaho's Émilie, Opéra de Lyon | reviews, news & interviews

Kaija Saariaho's Émilie, Opéra de Lyon

Kaija Saariaho's Émilie, Opéra de Lyon

A new compositional turn from the Finn undermined by misogynistic madness

Émilie du Châtelet: 'Châtelet (Karita Mattila) staggers around her orrery study barefoot like a 19th-century hysteric: temperamental, mystical and totally doolally.'JP Maurin
The new millennium shimmered into earshot with a musical masterpiece from a female Finn. Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin (2000) appeared to open up an enticing new operatic sound world, less dogmatic, more instinctive, colourful and intense, very much like the work's model, Debussy's Pélleas et Mélisande, had done a hundred years before. Ten years on, the critical establishment descended on Lyon for Saariaho's third opera, Émilie - which comes to the Barbican in 2012 - based on the last days of the life of 18th-century French intellectual, Émilie du Châtelet, to see if Saariaho could repeat the trick and set the operatic standard for the coming decade.

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