Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast presents “L’Amour de Loin” Dec. 10 in Breckenridge
Special to the Daily
Of note, “L’Amour de Loin” will be the first opera composed by a woman since 1908 performed at the Met. Of further note, the conductor of this performance will be Susanna Malkki, only the fourth woman to take the Metropolitan Opera podium. With robust applause from an appreciative opening night audience, the unique composer/conductor female pair was seen warmly embracing each other during the curtain call. Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast presents “L’Amour de Loin” on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge.
This contemporary 21st century opera production, based on a medieval tale, provides insights for both the seasoned opera buffs and newcomers to the scene far beyond entertainment. To quote the Met Opera general manager, Peter Gelb, “We’re always trying to find ways to satisfy confirmed opera lovers, as well as excite new ones.”
The libretto was written by Amin Maalouf, an award-winning novelist, whose poetic text coupled with Kaija Saariaho’s musical score has been described as “lushly beautiful.” Vivid orchestration include the subtle use of electronic instruments, interspersed bits of dissonance, piercing overtones and off-stage choral chanting being inspirational in effect.
The story of the opera tells of a renowned troubadour, Jaufré Rudel (performed by bass-baritone Eric Owens), historically a 12th century prince in Blaye, France. Grown weary of a life of pleasure and entitlement, Jaufré yearns for an idealized romance. Saariaho’s troubadour arias, based on medieval modal harmony and fragments of elegiac tunes, have been given high acclaim in current reviews.
A pilgrim (performed by mezzo soprano Tamara Mumford) arrives by boat from across a broad sea. Struck by the prince’s longing for love, he discloses that a woman of his imagination, the countess Clémence of Tripoli (sung by Susanna Phillips), who lives on the opposite shore, possesses the qualities he seeks. The pilgrim continues to act as Jaufré and Clémence’s go-between, using east and west water excursions to transmit their expressions of individual distant love. Learning from the pilgrim that Jaufré sings to her with unparalleled praises, Clémence responds in return by singing her love for the far distant troubadour as well.
Although having never been at sea, Jaufré decides to accompany the pilgrim on the vast over-water journey. Fraught with fear and doubt in transit, Jaufré’s becomes fatally ill. By the time he arrives at the east end of the journey, the final act shows Jaufré carried on stage by a stretcher. Clémence embraces him in expression of their love for one another. As many operas end, Jaufré dies in Clémence’s arms singing a heartbreaking duet. In a final soliloquy, Clémence sings a prayer over the body of her lover. In considering herself responsible for the tragedy, Clémence decides to enter a convent. The final scene shows her in prayer, both to a faraway God and to her “lover from afar.”
The staging by producer Robert Lepage, and his production team, is a 21st century masterpiece. Using more than two dozen strands of many thousand tiny LED lights, twinkling color changes cover the floor of the stage to simulate the luminous rippling effects of sea waves. A movable, elevated bridge, with platforms on either side from which each lover sings their romantic arias, are metaphorically positioned to represent both the west and east shores of the sea. For Lepage, the sea is the fourth main character, both separating and connecting the two lovers and providing personal insights for those in the audience. The effect is astounding.
This opera is performed in five consecutive acts lasting a total of two hours, with one intermission. Pizza, snacks and beverages will be provided during the intermission, at a suggested contribution of $5.
Elmer Koneman is a volunteer and opera enthusiast.
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