New Saariaho opera tackles gun violence

Posted on: July 22, 2021

“Kaija Saariaho’s opera ‘Innocence,’ which had its première at the Aix-en-Provence Festival on July 3rd, contains one of the most unnerving scenes I’ve witnessed at a theatre,” writes Alex Ross in the July 26 New Yorker. “About forty minutes into the piece, in a scene marked ‘IT,’ the chorus chants the phrase ‘When it happened’ in staggered rhythm…. A frame drum raps out sixteenth notes in rapid-fire bursts, and two trumpets let loose a series of … quick, shrieking upward glissandos…. Sopranos oscillate queasily between the notes A-flat and G…. A high-school student stumbles through a door, his arms covered in blood. A shooter, a fellow-student, is laying siege to a Finnish international school…. The psychological-thriller components of ‘Innocence’ mark a change for Saariaho, who rose to fame by employing modernist and avant-garde techniques to summon otherworldly, dreamlike spheres…. ‘Innocence’ … has a seething rawness. It’s as if the turmoil of recent years had prompted her to abandon aesthetic distance and enter the melee of the real…. ‘Innocence’ will travel widely: both the Met and the San Francisco Opera are set to present the work in future seasons…. What rescues the opera from utter bleakness is the inherent beauty of Saariaho’s writing.”