In 1985, Kaija Saariaho, then in her early 30s, composed more than one hour of original music for the film. When the film was finished, Saariaho flew from Paris to the premiere in Helsinki – only to be humiliated.
The film’s director Tuija-Maija Niskanenhttps://www.hs.fi/haku/?query=tuija-maija+niskanen had decided to use only a minute of Saariaho’s music and a few sound effects. The music was pure avantgarde, but the movie was not. The soundtrack that Niskanen ended up using consisted mainly of jazz from the 1920s. The movie was set in the 1920s and based on the first novel by Finnish author Mika Waltarihttps://www.hs.fi/haku/?query=mika+waltari (1928).
Saariaho’s humiliation was complete when her music was also dropped from the trailer and a new song was commissioned from the Finnish pop group SIG.
We listened to the original film score with Saariaho, 32 years after it was composed. The score was composed in an experimental studio, and listening to it now, the music seems to form a bridge between Verblendungen (1984), Lichtbogen (1986) and Jardin Secret II (1984/1986). Later Kaija Saariaho began to write more for living musicians, becoming one of the most successful composers of our time.
Her new opera Only the Sound Remains premiered last year in Amsterdam. Its Finnish premiere was at the Finnish National Opera Wednesday this week with Peter Sellarshttps://www.hs.fi/haku/?query=peter+sellars directing (you can listen to his opinions on Saariaho in this videohttp://www.hs.fi/kulttuuri/art-2000005162117.html).
After Helsinki, the opera will travel to Opera de Paris, Teatro Real in Madrid, Canadian Opera Company in Toronto and later to New York.
Saariaho’s early humiliation is now a distant memory. She is currently writing her next opera for The Royal Opera House in London.
Read Kaija Saariaho’s complete interview (in Finnish) herehttp://www.hs.fi/kulttuuri/art-2000005165587.html.