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The Teatro Real welcomes the premiere in Spain of Only the Sound Remains, the latest opera of Kaija Saariaho, one of today’s most acclaimed composers and the 2017 recipient of theFronteras del Conocimiento de la Fundación BBVA” prize for her contribution to contemporary music. In this new production of the Teatro Real and the Opéra national de Paris, Philippe Jaroussky and Davone Tines are the symbollic protaganists of the opera, a sensorial experience with orientalist overtones. Stage Director Peter Sellars returns to the Teatro Real after his much applauded productions of Iolanta/Persephone, The Indian Queen and Tristan und Isolde.


Opera in two parts

Music by Kaija Saariaho (1952)
Libretto by Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenollosa, inspired by Japanese Noh theatre.
Premiered at Opera Forward Festival from De Nationale Opera & Ballet of Amsterdam on 15 March 2016

Premiere in Spain

New production by the Teatro Real, in co-production with De Nationale Opera & Ballet of Amsterdam, the Canadian Opera Company of Toronto, the Opéra National de Paris and the Finnish National Opera of Helsinki


Production Team & Cast

  • Musical director: Ivor Bolton
  • Stage director: Peter Sellars
  • Set designer: Julie Mehretu
  • Costume designer: Robby Duiveman
  • Lighting designer: James F. Ingalls
  • Sound design: Christophe Lebreton
· - ·
  • Spirit, Angel: Philippe Jaroussky
  • Priest, Fisherman: Davone Tines
  • Dancer: Nora Kimball-Mentzos
  • Vocal Quartet: Theatre of Voices (Else Torp, Iris Oja, Paul Bentley-Angell, Steffen Bruun)
  • String Quartet: Meta4 Quartet (Antti Tikkanen, Minna Pensola, Atte Kilpeläinen, Tomas Djupsjöbacka)
  • Percussion: Heikki Parviainen
  • Kantele: Eija Kankaanranta
  • Flute: Camila Hoitenga
  • Sound: Timo Kurkikangas

Starting Point

The Japanese Theatre nôh was born of the buddhist idea that Light is hidden behind the Shadows so as not to blind the common mortal. The composer, Kaija Saariaho – 2017 winner of the Fronteras del Conocimiento de la Fundación BBVA prize– reveals that Hidden Light.  Two Works, based on nôh, Always Strong and Feather Mantle, serve as the source of inspiration for Only the Sound Remains, a work in which symbolism substitutes action, in a beautiful exercise of overflowing tension.

In  Always Strong, the spirit of a young lute player is presented before a court after having died in violent circumstances.  While still alive, his playing was erotic and divine, but now dead, he is unable to achieve the same effect. In Feather Mantle, a fisherman finds a feather cape hanging from the branch of a tree.  When he tried to take it to his home, a celestial angel appeared and asked him to return it.  Initially, the fisherman refuses to do so, but the lamentation of the angel unable to return to heaven without the cape moved him, and he finally promises to return the cape if the angel will show him one of his dances. The angel accepts and dancing, ascends to heaven.  In the wake of the lute player and the angel, only the sound is left.  

Performance Dates

  • 23 OCT (T) 20:00h
    Turn Première
  • 26 OCT (F) 20:00h
    Turn Z
  • 29 OCT (M) 20:00h
    Turn Y
  • 31 OCT (W) 20:00h
    Turn A
  • 5 NOV (M) 20:00h
    Turn B
  • 7 NOV (W) 20:00h
    Turn D
  • 9 NOV (F) 20:00h
    Turn F
  • Place: Main Auditorium