Harman Patil (Editor)

L'Amour de loin

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Translation  Love from Afar
Composer  Kaija Saariaho
Language  French
First performance  15 August 2000
Librettist  Amin Maalouf

Based on  La vida breve by Jaufré Rudel
Premiere  15 August 2000 (2000-08-15) Salzburg Festival
Similar  Adriana Mater, La Passion de Simone, Rusalka, Nabucco, Idomeneo

L amour de loin trailer

L'Amour de loin (Love from Afar) is an opera in five acts with music by Kaija Saariaho and a French-language libretto by Amin Maalouf. The opera received its world premiere performance on 15 August 2000 at the Salzburg Festival.


Saariaho, living in Paris since 1982, had become familiar in 1993 with La vida breve by one of the first great 12th-century troubadours, Jaufré Rudel. She did not think she was capable of writing an opera until she saw Peter Sellars's staging of Messiaen’s opera Saint-François d'Assise at the 1992 Salzburg Festival. “If that is an opera, then I can write one", she has said she thought.

Her idea for the opera evolved over the following seven or eight years. She first set a Jaufré poem to music in Lonh (1996) for soprano and electronic instruments.

The sensibilities and backgrounds of both Maalouf, a Lebanese-French author and journalist also living in Paris, and Saariaho – both voluntary exiles – brought them together to turn “a seemingly simple story into a complex story very simply told...[and with] the straightforward trajectory of its plot, L’Amour de loin turns anxiously around deeper themes – obsession and devotion, reality and illusion, the loneliness of the artist, the need to belong”.

Having secured an advance commitment from Salzburg Festival director Gerard Mortier to stage the opera, Saariaho began L'Amour de loin in 1999. The SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden-Freiburg, an ensemble well known for its excellence in contemporary music, was also on board.

L'Amour de loin received the 2003 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Performance history

The opera's first production became a joint commission by the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and the Santa Fe Opera in addition to Salzburg. Peter Sellars directed the original production, as well as several later ones. The US premiere occurred on 27 July 2002 at the Santa Fe Opera.

Additional productions were staged at Stadttheater Bern, Switzerland (December 2001 onward), in Darmstadt, Germany in the spring of 2003, and at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki in 2004.

In 2005, Jan Latham-Koenig conducted two concert performances as part of the Al Bustan International Festival of Music and the Arts in Beirut.

In 2008, the Bergen International Festival in Bergen, Norway opened with a production by the artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, produced by Bergen National Opera (previously Den Nye Opera). They created an animated film in place of a stage setting.

The English National Opera presented a new production in July 2009 at the London Coliseum, sung in English. This same production was given by Vlaamse Opera in September 2010, and by the Canadian Opera Company in February 2012.

The Landestheater Linz presented a new production in 2015.

The Festival d'Opéra de Québec staged the opera, directed by Robert Lepage, during its Summer 2015 season. This same production was then staged at the Metropolitan Opera, the company's first production of the opera, in December 2016, conducted by Susanna Mälkki. This marked the Metropolitan Opera's first staging of an opera by a female composer since the company's 1903 production of Der Wald by Ethel Smyth. This opera was transmitted to cinemas on 10 December 2016 as part of the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series, the first opera by a female composer, and the first opera conducted by a female conductor, in this series.


Place: In Aquitaine, Tripoli, and at sea Time: 12th century

Act 1

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

Act 2

The Pilgrim returns to Tripoli, meets Clémence, and tells her that, in France, a prince-troubadour extols her in his songs, calling her his “love from afar”. This initially offends her, but Clémence 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 Jaufré and tells him that the lady now knows that he sings about her. Jaufré decides that he must travel to meet her.

Second Scene

Clémence seems to prefer that their relationship remain distant as she is reluctant to live constantly waiting and does not want to suffer.

Act 4

On impulse, Jaufré sets out to meet his “love from afar”, but not without 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. By the time he arrives he is dying.

Act 5

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


  • DVD: L'Amour de loin with Dawn Upshaw, Gerald Finley, and Monica Groop. Finnish National Opera, Helsinki production in 2004, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Directed by Peter Sellars. Released 2005.
  • Audio: Daniel Belcher, Ekaterina Lekhina and Marie-Ange Todorovitch; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Kent Nagano, conductor; Martin Sauer, producer (harmonia mundi, 2009)
  • References

    L'Amour de loin Wikipedia