Friday, November 8, 2013

an opera that touched me

I'm not sophisticated enough to be an opera aficionado.

But several years ago, I read a CD review of an opera by the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928 - ). It's titled The House of the Sun, and something in that review attracted me. I bought the CD.

The booklet introduction, written by the composer, is titled "The House of the Sun and the mystery of time." Based on actual events, this opera is about a pair of Russian sisters, who lived in the same house in Finland from 1917 to 1987. The Russian Revolution had displaced the family, and after their father's, brother's, and sister's suicides, as well as their mother's natural death, the twin sisters secluded themselves in SolgÄrten (House of the Sun). Sustained by mutual childhood memories more real than the impossible reality of their situation, they luxuriate in wafts of Russian melancholy, which forms into visions for that wounded pair.

The libretto recounts attempts at more grounded visitation by hopeful suitors and others. All to no avail. The sisters could not be released from the magnetic grip of a utopian past, either through an act of their own wills or by the influence of outsiders. I found the performances riveting and the music beautifully sad.

The denouement especially haunts me and will be with me for the rest of my life. The ghosts of two old suitors appear and prepare the sisters for their approaching apotheosis:

"When it is time, when the time comes,
Understand this: in your most important moment
A bird stops and looks at you, at the moment when you understand
The pond reflects the entire world,
And the brook says: now it is time, here, now and always
A red leaf floats on the stream,
Carried by the water into oblivion."

At the very end, reality is thoroughly overtaken by dream and fantasy…by the promptings of apparitions, who lead the twins, finally, outside the House of the Sun:

One after another, they dance
through the open garden door into the moonlight.

No comments:

Post a Comment