Tuesday, December 13, 2016

 L’Amour de Loin
The Met’s opera sets sail upon A Sea of Love

Do you remember that oldie “Sea of Love”?…  Come with me …To the sea …The sea of love - I wanna tell you -How much-I love you.”  

How simple that song made love  and the sea - both eternal -seem to be.  But for all its beauty and allure,  the sea —like love— is vast and deep and dangerous.    

In  L’Amour de Loin-the Met’s Live in HD broadcast— the sea is the fourth and very complex character in this tale of medieval love.

The title of the opera comes from the poetry of troubadour Jaufre Rudel who developed  the concept of “love from afar.”  In the time of the Second Crusade in the 12th century, the poet fell in love with a Countess in Tripoli, a beautiful woman whom he had never seen but had dreamed of  in his works.  

It is the sea which  separates the lovers and it is across the sea, that the poet will take his fateful journey to finally meet his idolized love. 

Kaija Saariaho’s opera has been described as dazzling even as critics rave that she the first woman composer to have an opera at the Met in over a hundred years (let alone the second opera composed by a woman to be presented by the company.)  Conductor Susanna Malkkiis  has been hailed as brilliant as well as only the fourth woman to take the podium in the company’s history.  

Soprano Susanna Phillips  who sings the title role is stellar as the beautiful Countess.  Bass-baritone Eric Owens is earthy, as the vulnerable troubadour Jaufré, in what has been described as a “weary sadness.”  Mezzo-soprano Tamara Mum is excellent as the pilgrim who facilitates the events which unites the lovers.

The sea, recreated through  the wonders of theatrical technology, and sung by the fabulous Met chorus  looms large as one powerful presence compared to these mere mortals. 

 We can not ignore it any more than we can the contradictions and complexities of love which librettist Amin Maalouf has put into a sea of  words that stoke our mind simultaneously as the music evokes our sensual and our spiritual natures.

L’Amour de Loin is a gem of an opera, one that has garnered wide critical praise for its music and words in each of its productions to date. 

What is most appealing to me is that rather than try to modernize an opera set in olden times, what this modern opera has going for it is that it has a fresh and universal look while remaining true to the essence of this tangled true story from the middle ages.    

And like the oldies but goodies, it works so well because it is authentic in its emotional content—after all, all Jaufre was trying to do was tell the Countess “how much I love you.”