ECHOES OF THE UNIVERSE, The Music of Kaija Saariaho.

”Music initially felt so grand and important that it seemed difficult to imagine adding anything to it.” Kaija Saariaho


The documentary ECHOES OF THE UNIVERSE explores composer Kaija Saariaho’s journey from a shy girl from Helsinki to becoming one of the world’s most respected contemporary composers. In the 1970s and 1980s, Saariaho stood out as the only female composer amongst the music study community in both Finland and France.

When Finland became suffocating in the 1980s, Saariaho pursued further studies in Freiburg, Germany, and then in Paris at IRCAM, where she met her future husband Jean-Baptiste Barrière and started a family with him in Paris. The marriage produced two children, Aliisa Neige Barrière and Aleksi Barrière.

Saariaho’s first opera, “L’Amour de loin” (Love from Afar), immediately became an international success in 2000. When the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 2016, it was the third work by a female composer to be presented at the venue in a hundred years.
When Saariaho’s latest opera, Innocence, premiered in Aix-en-Provence, France back in 2021, The New York Times named her the most important contemporary composer of the year. The libretto for the opera was written by Sofi Oksanen, and the director and dramaturge Aleksi Barrière adapted it. Besides the works, the documentary follows the collaboration of Saariaho’s talented family members in various events. The documentary also brings forth drama as it portrays Saariaho’s accident in a Japanese hotel in spring 2021, which left her in a wheelchair and relying on her family members’ help.

Saariaho’s music has been performed worldwide for 45 years, and she has received 25 significant awards and recognition, including the ”Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement” award in Venice in September 2021.

The documentary features director Peter Sellars, conductors Susanna Mälkki, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Clément Mao-Takacs, soprano Anu Komsi, writer Sofi Oksanen, choir conductor Simon Halsey, folk musician Vilma Jää, Kaija Saariaho’s former classmates from Steiner School and teacher Marja Dahlström.

“Echoes of the Universe” is part of Saariaho’s 70th-anniversary program and celebrates her 45-year artistic career.

Kaija Saariaho Oct 14, 1953 – June 2, 2023


Premiere at DocPoint festival Helsinki, February 3, 2023
Special award at the Tampere Film Festival, March 11, 2023
London, Barbican Center, May 7, 2023, as part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra Total Immersion: Kaija Saariaho Music Festival
Sodankylä Midnight Film Festival  June 14-16, 2023
Helsinki Festival August 21, 2023
In cinemas August 25, 2023
In Paris, La Finlande en 4 films festival, from September 28 to October 1, 2023

The documentary was filmed between 2019 and 2022.
Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes.
Director: Riitta Rask
Director of Photography: Pekka Uotila
Sound Engineer: Christian Pulkkinen
Editor: Maria Haipus
Sound Designer: Salla Hämäläinen
Mixing: Sami Sarhamaa
Graphics: Studio Pekka Piippo
Producer: Teatro Productions Oy / Kaisa Näreranta

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