It is with deep regret and profound sorrow that the Paris Opera has learned of the passing of composer Kaija Saariaho, a leading figure of contemporary music. Born in Helsinki, she had a special connection to Paris, where she moved in 1982 to study at the Ircam after she discovered spectral music.
In her operas, this legendary composer carried the voice to its firmament, while paying great care to language and stagings, in her own very personal style.
The Paris Opera commissioned her Adriana Mater, based on a libretto by Amin Maalouf, directed by Peter Sellars in 2006 at the Bastille Opera, and the Palais Garnier hosted the French premiere of Only the Sound Remains, also directed by Peter Sellars, in 2018. It was an occasion to learn more about her creative process.
Kaija Saariaho told us mostly of her inspiration, born of work, of her daily discipline needed to 'warm up the head' as athletes warm up their bodies, of her relationship with the text, and how she would master her fear when thinking of embarking on a large-scale work.
Kaija Saariaho will forever remain as a musical pioneer and one of the most gifted composers of her generation.
Alexander Neef and the Paris Opera staff extend their deepest condolences to her family and her friends.