I watched *La Passion de Simone* online on April 30, 2021. It was a concert performance from October 17, 2020, from the Royal Swedish Opera.
It’s an oratorio from 2006 by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho on a libretto by Amin Maalouf. I had seen their opera *L’amour de loin* at the Met in 2016 and liked it. Her music has a particular sort of shimmer, it caresses the ear. This piece was more kinetic than *L’amour de loin,* that was a nice surprise. But there was still plenty of shimmer. Conductor Christian Karlsen seemed unflappable, it’s like he was conducting Brahms. It shore didn’t sound like Brahms!
The oratorio is about the French-Jewish philosopher and mystic Simone Weil. Clearly Saariaho and Maalouf were inspired by Weil, the opera had a mood and a sound palette unlike anything I’d heard before. I bet it was even more sumptuous in person.
The biggest draw of this production (for me) was the star, the great Swedish mezzo Anne Sophie von Otter. I’ve loved her for ages and am thrilled that she continues to challenge herself and do new music. Her singing was, as always, intelligent and insightful and her French was full of flavor. She did some exceptional high and quiet singing late in the piece. She seemed to be enveloped by the sparkle of the orchestra.