She is considered one of the greatest of her time. Finnish contemporary music composer Kaija Saariaho died on Friday June 2 in Paris at the age of 70, her family and the music publishing house Chester Music announced in separate press releases. “Kaija fought the disease with all her strength and with grace”, said Chester Music. Her family said she passed away “in her bed, at her home in Paris”.
Rare woman to have broken the glass ceiling in a male environment and figurehead of a generation of Finnish artists, Kaija Saariaho was crowned in 2022 at the Victories of Classical Music in France for her opera Innocenceabout a school shooting.
This lyrical thriller in several languages caused a sensation at the Festival d’art lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence in 2021. It took him seven years to give birth to this work in which two of his compatriots participated: the novelist Sofi Oksanen (Purge), who wrote the original libretto, and conductor Susanna Mälkki.
Figurehead of contemporary music and opera
Before that, Kaija Saariaho made a name for himself with another creation, Love from afar (2000), on a libretto by the writer Amin Maalouf, which will then be taken up at the Met, in New York. will follow Adrianaalso to a libretto by Amin Maalouf, premiered at the Opéra Bastille in 2006, and Only The Sound Remains, premiered in Amsterdam and revived in 2018 at the Paris Opera. If his works were recognized from the 1980s, it was not until the beginning of the 21ste century that the Finn has become a figurehead of contemporary music and opera.
Born Kaija Anneli Laakkonen on October 14, 1952 in Helsinki, she grew up in a family with no connection to music. As a child, she learned to play the piano and the violin. She then studied composition at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, then in Germany.
She then moved to Paris in 1982 to study at Ircam and two years later married the French composer Jean-Baptiste Barrière. In March 2023, the Finnish President, Sauli Niinistö, gave her the honorary title of Academician of the Arts, held by a handful of artists (eleven at the time).