Credit: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera
Sunday, April 2 at 12 p.m. on PBS
(Check your local listings)
Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin ("Love From Afar"), one of the most highly praised operas of recent years, airs on Great Performances at the Met Sunday, April 2 at 12 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). (In New York, THIRTEEN will air the opera at 12:30 p.m. ET)
Susanna Phillips stars as Clémence, the Countess of Tripoli, opposite Eric Owens as Jaufré Rudel, a troubadour on a quest to find his perfect love, and Tamara Mumford as the Pilgrim who carries messages back and forth between them.
Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's breakthrough opera has been described by the New York Times as "transfixing...a lushly beautiful score." Commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, it was first seen in 2000.
One of the most discussed, praised, and successful of recent operas, L'Amour de Loin is a seductively beautiful tale of love's unfathomable nature. The idea of impossible love was central to the explosion of poetry in Europe in the 12th century, and it has remained prominent in all the arts ever since.
Similarly, death, for the poetic soul, is both an end and a culmination, an idea that the medium of opera has explored with unique insight throughout its history. L'Amour de Loin explores this same artistic territory in a way that is sensitive to both the sources of the medieval legend on which it is based and to the contemporary ear.
The opera takes place during the mid-12th century, the time of the historical Jaufré Rudel, a poet and troubadour. It is set in the Aquitaine region of France, on the Mediterranean Sea, and in the Crusader state of Tripoli in what is now Lebanon. The personal journey that Rudel takes across the sea recalls the cultural journey of Western Europeans to the East in the time of the Crusades: it held a destructive aspect (war) but also a creative aspect (the fluorescence of the arts and learning itself in 12th-century Europe, which owed much to contact with the refined cultures of the eastern Mediterranean).