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Adriana Mater on the Radio

Adriana Mater on Ionarts:

Esa-Pekka Salonen on Adriana Mater (April 15, 2006)

Adriana Mater (April 5, 2006)

Kaija Saariaho (March 30, 2006)
Continuing our vacation through the Midwest, we drove by Cleveland yesterday and along Lake Erie, where we were able to pick up a southern outpost of CBC Radio (CBE 89.9, also known as CBC Radio Two, from Windsor, Ontario). As fate would have it, we were driving by at precisely the right time to hear a program called Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, which was broadcasting a recorded performance of Kaija Saariaho's latest opera, Adriana Mater, from the Opéra national de Paris. (Looking at the CBC's schedule of operas from around the world, I realized yet again that NPR is cheating us out of our tax dollars.) It was a very good signal that we picked up as clear as day from the start of the opera and that did not break up until the end. I was delighted, although I don't think the music helped the children to nap at all.

The music was stupdendous, I found. Without having studied the score or libretto, but understanding much of the French that was sung, I was incredibly moved. The story is heart-wrenchingly tragic, and the style of composition, although still recognizably the work of the composer of the much more ethereal L'Amour de Loin, has become more varied and powerful. There were still many of Saariaho's trademarked whispered washes of sound, with low drones rumbling under high, thin textures, for example. However, perhaps inspired by the more direct and devastating story line, Saariaho engaged more of the orchestra, it seemed, calling for many loud and even bombastic passages, with blaring brass on repeated, almost minimalistic patterns. The remarkable use of the chorus, so crucial to the success of her first opera, was here, too. I look forward to studying this opera more carefully when a recording and hopefully DVD become available. Thanks to our Canadian friends to the north for making this first encounter with Adriana Mater possible.

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