“Thanks to Saariaho’s silvery, shimmering instrumentation…even multilayered masses of chord stay transparent and diaphanous.”—Die Presse (Austria)
Composer Kaija Saariaho
Libretto Amin Maalouf
Director Marianne Weems
Conductor John Kennedy
Soprano Elizabeth Futral
Video design Austin Switser
Set design Neal Wilkinson
Sound design Dan Dobson
Lighting design Allen Hahn
Costume design Claudia Stephens
Émilie is a modern one-singer, multimedia tour de force about an extraordinary woman: French Enlightenment thinker Émilie du Châtelet. Émilie was many things: the brilliant physicist who first defined kinetic energy; mistress to Voltaire, among other luminaries; a prodigious mathematician and the translator of Newton’s Principia Mathematica; the author of a treatise on the happiness of women; a pioneer of what are now called financial derivatives, which she invented in part to pay off a $1 million debt to card sharks accrued in an unlucky night gambling—all achieved before she died in childbirth in 1749, when she was 42.
Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho is one of the most influential composers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Her signature style was largely influenced by her years studying in Paris at IRCAM, where she learned unique techniques to blend live music with electronic effects. Here, she uses elevated speech and soaring melodic arcs to convey her heroine’s rumination on life and the universe, from the tiny new life inside her womb to the vastness of interstellar space, as Émilie struggles with her place in a universe larger than most of us ever contemplate.
World-renowned soprano Elizabeth Futral sings the title role with elegant depth and extreme technical skill, singing almost continuously for the entire 75-minute work. Futral unfolds her character under the direction of Marianne Weems, best known as the artistic director of The Builders Association, whose work exploits the richness of contemporary technologies to extend the boundaries of theater.
Gerald W. Lynch Theater
Sung in French and English with English supertitles
This performance is approximately one hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.
Please note: For all events at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, please use the theater’s new entrance at 524 59th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues.