Today, De Nerderlandse Opera in Amsterdam presents the firstperformance of two new operas composed by Kaija Saariaho, under the title Only the sound remains.
Saariaho already composed three operas : L'Amour de loin (Salzburg, 2000), Adriana Mater (Paris, 2006) and Emilie (Lyon, 2010).
The first opera, Always strong (original title Tsunemasa) is based on a translation by Ezra Pound.
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. (reproduced from Kaija Saariaho's website)The second one, Feather Mantle (original title Hagoromo), is based on a translation by Ernest Fenollosa.
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. (reproduced from Kaija Saariaho's website)Only two singers are needed for both operas : countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (Spirit of the young man / Angel) and bass baritone Davone Tines (Monk / Fisherman). André de Ridder conducts the chamber ensemble consisting of the Dudok Quartet joined by Eija Kankaanranta (kantele), Camilla Hoitenga (flute) and Niek KleinJan (percussion). Peter Sellars directs.