Boredom made way to disgust today, as my friend Tristan and I endured La Passion de Simone, a 75-minute oratorio by composer Kaija Saariaho and librettist Amin Maalouf, and part of the Mostly Mozart festival.
Boredom because this "musical journey in 15 stations" was so short on musical ideas that I could not figure out on what basis Saariaho is hailed as an important contempory composer. To stay in the piece's spirit of portentous self-aggrandizement, I'll say it was us going through the stations of the cross.
Inappropriate? We're talking about a piece that, under the pretext of looking at the tragic struggle of Simone Weil—who starved herself to death when she was 34, in 1943, refusing to eat in empathy with those lacking food in the camps—tries to elevate to the sublime a tale that's much more down to earth: that of a selfish, childish woman endowed with a monstrous egotism. A stupider, more futile gesture is hard to find: She accomplished nothing, her death creating all the ripples of a tree falling where no one can hear it.
"She was trying so hard to solve some of the problems of our existence," Saariaho has said. Not at all: Weil was trying to solve her own problems, that's all. That inner struggle can be more than enough for an oratorio or an opera or a movie—characters wrestling with their faith was Bergman's crisp bread and butter. Perhaps Saariaho should have watched Winter Light to see how it's done. Art about someone wrestling with the idea of god is quite different from art glorifying useless martyrdom, especially when said martyrdom is couched in a pompous, vacant mysticism—here, the ultimate refuge-slash-excuse for an anorexic egomaniac.
Tristan nailed it when he said Weil was nihilistic and narcissistic. I can't remember now precisely if it was Weil herself (in one of the voiceover readings from her writings) or Maloof who drew a parallel between her factory-worker idea and the number tattooed on the arms of concentration-camp prisoner, but there's quite a difference between the two. But then, you're talking about a woman who mused that Alexander and Jesus were also close to 34 when they died. No wonder the Resistance didn't want her.
12 hours ago