Kaija Saariaho

La Passion de Simone

Sun /
may 25
StaatenHaus Saal 3 / 6:00 p.m. – 7:20 p.m. / Premiere


How far would you go for your ideals? The French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil spent her brief 34 years of life constantly pushing her personal limits. A strong will that was constantly subjected to failure.
Born in 1909 into an upper middle-class Jewish family in France, Simone Weil first studied philosophy at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris - as the only woman alongside Simone de Beauvoir - and then worked as a teacher. However, she soon quit her job to work as a labourer in an electrical factory and experience the living conditions of the working class first-hand. But physically she was unable to take the strain. Her endeavours to fight on the side of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and to travel from England to France to fight against the Germans in 1942 also failed. Out of solidarity with the victims of the Second World War, Simone Weil finally rejected all food and died of hunger and heart failure in 1943.
With “La passion de Simone”, the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, who died in 2023, has erected a monument to her. The result is one of Saariaho’s most personal works. She herself described “La passion de Simone” as her musical testament. This is now the third collaboration with the French-Lebanese author Amin Maalouf, which began with “L’amour de loin”. The cooperation with the American opera director Peter Sellars, who staged the world premiere of “La passion de Simone” in November 2006 as part of his New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna, has also left its mark on this work.
The oratorio for solo soprano, choir and orchestra consists of 15 stations that illuminate Simone Weil’s life and thoughts. The music features Saariaho’s typical impressionistic soundscapes, sometimes dramatically intensified by surprising bursts of percussion. During her lifetime, Saariaho herself argued in favour of performing the work scenically.
“La passion de Simone” is now being shown at Oper Köln in cooperation with the Kölner Philharmonie’s “Acht Brücken” festival. The production is to be directed by the newcomer Friederike Blum, who received the Götz Friedrich Prize from Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2023 for her work “Tri Sestry” at the Hagen Theatre. Together with the stage and costume designer Lisa Kruse, she explores the spirit of Simone Weil and invites us to immerse ourselves in her life and thoughts. Christian Karlsen, a specialist in contemporary music theatre and artistic director at the Kaija Saariaho Festival in The Hague, has been engaged to conduct.


Musikalische Leitung Christian Karlsen / Inszenierung Friederike Blum / Bühne & Kostüme Lise Kruse / Licht Nicol Hungsberg / Dramaturgie Svenja Gottsmann /

Further performances