Rating: EX15+
Year: 2017
Length: 182 minutes
Composer: Kaija Saariaho
Production: Robert Lepage
Cast: Susanna Malkki, Susanna Phillips as CLEMENCE, Tamara Mumford as THE PILGRIM, Eric Ownes as JAUFRE RUDEL
Sung in French

One of the most highly praised operas of recent years, which had its premiere at the Salzburg Festival in 2000, Kaija Saariaho's yearning medieval romance L'Amour de Loin (Love From Afar), has its Met premiere on December 1. The production is by Robert Lepage, co-produced with Le Opera de Quebec, where it premiered to acclaim last summer, in collaboration with Ex Machina. Susanna Malkki leads the performances, which will star Susanna Phillips as Clemence, Eric Owens as Jaufre, and Tamara Mumford as the Pilgrim who carries messages of love between them. L'Amour de Loin is one of several Saariaho events taking place in New York this fall, including performances at the Park Avenue Armory with the New York Philharmonic; at the Juilliard School; and a residency by the composer at the Mannes School of Music.


Act 1
Jaufre, having become weary of the pleasures of life, longs for a different love, one faraway, but realizes that it is unlikely that he will ever find her. The chorus, made up of his old companions, laugh at his dreams and tell him the woman he sings about does not exist. However, a Pilgrim (male but sung by a mezzo-soprano), recently arrived from abroad, tells Jaufre that such a woman does indeed exist because the Pilgrim has met her. Jaufre then devotes himself to thinking only of her.

Act 2
The Pilgrim, having returned to Tripoli, meets Clemence and tells her that, in France, a prince-troubadour extols her in his songs, calling her his 'love from afar'. Although this initially offends her, Clemence begins to dream of this strange and faraway lover, asking herself if she is worthy to receive such devotion.

Act 3
First Scene

Upon his return to Blaye, the Pilgrim again meets Jaufre and tells him that the lady now knows that he sings about her. Jaufre decides that he must now travel to meet her.

Second Scene

However, Clemence seems to prefer that their relationship remains distant since she is reluctant to live constantly waiting and does not want to suffer.

Act 4
On impulse, Jaufre sets out to meet his 'love from afar', but not without some trepidation. He is anguished about the possibility that he has not made the right decision, so much so that he becomes severely ill, and the sickness increases as he gets closer to Tripoli. Finally, he arrives there, but he is dying.

Act 5
The ship berths and the Pilgrim hurries off to tell the countess that Jaufre has arrived, that he is close to death, and that he asks to see her. Carried on a stretcher, Jaufre is brought to the citadel unconscious, but in the presence of Clemence, he recovers somewhat. With Jaufre approaching death, the couple embrace and confess their love for each other. When he dies in her arms, Clemence rages against Heaven and considers herself responsible for the tragedy. She decides to enter a convent and the last scene shows her in prayer. However, her words are ambiguous: it is not clear to whom she is praying on her knees, to her faraway God or to her 'Love from afar'.

The Met’s ‘L’Amour de Loin’ is sumptuous and shimmering - The Huffington Post
Rich colours and textures on a sea of inertia - The Opera Critic
Met Opera's 'L'Amour' makes diva walk on water - Philadelphia Inquirer
Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de loin triumphs at the Met - Bachtrack
The Met opera production by Robert Lepage is a visual masterpiece - Opera Today
Kaija Saariaho’s L’amour de loin is iridescently beautiful - Vulture
Lepage holds Met Opera’s new ‘L’Amour de Loin’ hostage - ZEALnyc
Saariaho’s “L’Amour” makes a luminous and mesmerizing Met debut - Classical Review
Kaija Saariaho opera walks on artificial water at the Met - WQXR New York
A newly relevant 'L'Amour de Loin' at the Met - New York Times
* Cry Baby Session