Only the Sound Remains
Commissioned by Dutch National Opera, Finnish National Opera, Opera de Paris, Teatro Real Madrid and Canadian Opera Company.
|Publisher||Chester Music Ltd|
|Duration||1 hour 30 minutes|
|Chorus||vocal ensemble (SATB)|
|Soloist||countertenor, bass baritone|
Kaija Saariaho Only the Sound Remains (2015)
Only the Sound Remains combines two short operas inspired by Nôh dramas: Always strong (original title Tsunemasa) and Feather mantle (Hagoromo), based on translations by Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa.
In Always Strong, a young lute player named Tsunemasa returns as a spirit to the court following his death under violent circumstances. When alive, his playing on the Biwa lute was erotic and heavenly but he cannot find happiness again. The monk Gyōkei contacts the spirit and offers the Biwa lute before the altar of the deceased and performs a service with music. Tsunemasa’s spirit touches the lute briefly before disappearing slowly.
In Feather Mantle, a fisherman named Hakuryō goes fishing with his companions and finds a beautiful robe hung on a pine branch. When he attempts to take it home as a family heirloom, a celestial maiden appears and asks him to return the robe to her. At first, Hakuryō refuses to return it. However he is moved by the celestial maiden who laments that she cannot go home to heaven without it. The fisherman argues with her and finally promises to return it if she will show to him her dance or at least part of it. She accepts his offer and eventually disappears in the haze, beyond the peak of Mount Fuji – only the sound remains.