Dutch National Opera presents

Only the sound remains Kaija Saariaho (1952)

This show was to been seen in March 2016


Duration 2:15

Breaks 1

By Kaija Saariaho

Language English

Surtitles English & Dutch


Kaija Saariaho
Two Nôh plays
Libretto based on the translation by Ezra Pound and Ernest Fenellosa
Co-production with Finnish National Opera Helsinki, Opéra national de Paris, Teatro Real Madrid and Canadian Opera Company Toronto
In collaboration with GRAME, Lyon
Word premiere 15 March 2016

In the world premiere Only the sound remains famous director Peter Sellars combines two short operas inspired by Nôh dramas into a heavenly, full-length performance.

In short

The Japanese Nôh theatre was born from the Buddhist idea that light is concealed largely in darkness, so as not to blind mere mortals. The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho lets out this concealed light. There is little action in Only the Sound Remains, which heightens the tension, concentration and symbolism.

Watch the trailer of Only the Sound Remains.
Take a look behind the scenes and follow composer Kaija Saariaho in her daily work.

Team, Cast and Chorus

André de Ridder
Stage Director 
Peter Sellars
Set Designer 
Julie Mehretu
Costume Designer 
Robby Duiveman
Lighting Designer 
James F. Ingalls
Sound Designer 
Christophe Lebreton
Dudok Quartet
Eija Kankaanranta (kantele)
Camilla Hoitenga (flute)
Niek KleinJan (percussion)
Vocal Quartet of the
Nederlands Kamerkoor
Chorus Master 
Frank Hameleers
Spirit of the young man 
Philippe Jaroussky
Davone TInes
Philippe Jaroussky
Davone Tines
Nora Kimball-Mentzos


His spirit touches the lute
In Always Strong, a young lute player returns to the court following his death under violent circumstances. When alive, his playing was erotic and heavenly. But he cannot find happiness again. Only his spirit touches the lute and then disappears slowly. ‘Only the sound remains…’

There is no deceit in heaven
In Feather Mantle, a fisherman finds a cloak of feathers belonging to a female angel. He only wants to give the garment back if the angel dances for him, but she says she needs the cloak to do so. When the fisherman mistrusts her and says she must dance first, she answers that there is no deceit in heaven. Ashamed, the fisherman gives back the cloak and the angel performs heavenly dances, accompanied by heavenly music. Radiantly, she gradually ascends and disappears. 'Only the sound remains...'

Kaija Saariaho made her name with electroacoustic works. In 1989, she was awarded the Prix Ars Electronica. In 2011, her opera Émilie was presented in Dutch National Opera & Ballet.

Sellars has created groundbreaking productions, such as St. François d’Assise, Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer. In 1999, he was awarded the Erasmus Prize. Sellars already showed his great sense of spirituality in 1999, with his Biblical Pieces.

Main role
Making his debut with Dutch National Opera, Philippe Jaroussky is singing a main role in both pieces of Only the Sound Remains. He is one of the most important countertenors of his generation. He is especially acclaimed for his timbre and technique.

Only the Sound Remains is part of the programme of the Opera Forward Festival: a new festival that explores the future of opera through innovative new work. Take a look at the complete festival programme on operaforward.nl.



ANDRÉ DE RIDDER (musical director) was recently appointed artistic director of the Festival Musica Nova Helsinki. The German conductor works with contemporary composers like Kaija Saariaho, Uri Caine, Bryce Dessner, Michel van der Aa and Mica Levi, musicians like Damon Albarn (Blur) and bands like Mouse on Mars. In 2013, he founded the musicians’ collective Stargaze, with whom he initiated the festival ‘Stargaze presents’ and performed at the Barbican Centre, in London, Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, in Amsterdam, and the Ruhrtriennale. André de Ridder conducted the world premieres of The Last Hotel (Donnacha Dehenny), The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Gerald Barry) and The Sunken Garden (Michel van der Aa). He has conducted the BBC Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, Britten Sinfonia, the Melbourne Symphony, the Chicago Symphony and the Orchestre de Paris. Future productions include AAA: ‘pop art’ with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and his debut with the Opéra national de Paris.

DNO debut

Dudok Kwartet
Eija Kankaanranta (kantele)
Camilla Hoitenga (flute)
Niek KleinJan (percussion)

Vocaal kwartet van het Nederlands Kamerkoor
Rehearsals   Frank Hameleers


Only the sound remains is commissioned and co-produced by Dutch National Opera, Finnish National Opera Helsinki; Opéra national de Paris; Teatro Real, Madrid; Canadian Opera Company, Toronto.

In cooperation with GRAME, Lyon


This opera is supported by:  VandenEnde Foundation, Fonds 21 en Ammodo .