Well, at least in the first part of Only the sound Remains by Kaija Saariaho,, Always Strong, shadows played an essential role, although less in the latter, Feather Mantle. Both are based on Noh plays translated by Ezra Pound, and sung in English.

I've always looked forward to a new opera by Saariaho, but this time my expectation was tinged with apprehension: combining different traditions is risky. I should have known better; Saariaho does it brilliantly. Only one question remains: I suspect she can't have been totally happy with the spot "(Now he plays) Buddha's music" (I wasn't).

The staging was simple: only a backdrop with ink painting and a black rectangular box serving first as an altar and later as a boat. The rest was done with lights: changing shadows and figures gleaming through the backdrop, especially in the first part. The latter happened mostly in front of the backdrop and with more light and less shadows.

On the stage there were only two singers: bass baritone Davone Tines as the priest and the fisherman, and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo as the spirit and the angel. What a voice! In the latter part there was also a dancer, Nora Kimball-Mentzos, as the angel. In the orchestra pit there was a quartette of singers in addition to the musicians.

Kaija Saariaho herself joined in the final bows.

It was great evening, almost a sacred experience.


Otherwise the evening was a strangely celebrity rich: at the opera Seppo Tiitinen came to queue for the programmes behind me, and afterwards Sofi Oksanen, looking as glum as always, came to wait for "my" tram.