Kaija Saariaho is a Finnish composer whose “L’Amour de Loin” will be staged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York next season. Why is that remarkable? Because the Met hasn’t staged an opera composed by a woman since 1903 — 16 years before the 19th amendment gave US women the right to vote. (It seems doubly apropos that Saariaho then should break the unconscionable dry spell; Finnish women have been voting since at least 1863.) You can check out a Finish National Opera production of Saariaho: L’Amour de Loin, released in 2005 and directed by Peter Sellars, at Amazon. One review there says: “Kaija Saariaho is rapidly becoming one of the more daring and creative of our current crop of contemporary composers.” Others have called the production “mesmerizing.”
Kaija Saariaho, born in 1952, lives in Paris. A modernist, she brings vast technology to bear on her compositions. Working in what’s called “spectralism” Saariaho early on pursued ranges of color and texture aided by computer electronics to produce orchestral works that drew worldwide praise. WQXR, the classical radio station, has called the sounds “complex, white noise-y.” Her Chester Music biography credits Saariaho with developing “her own method for creating harmonic structures” with an “emphasis on the shaping of dense masses of sound in slow transformations.” Her most recent production, Only The Sound Remains — two short operas inspired by Japanese Noh dramas — will have its world premiere at the Dutch National Opera in March 2016. The libretto for “L’Amour de Loin” is by Amin Maalouf, a Lebanese-born novelist. This look at Saariaho is terrific.