Innocence 2021, © Jean Louis Fernandez
This April, The Royal Opera stages the long-awaited UK premiere of Innocence. The original creative team are reunited at Covent Garden alongside an outstanding ensemble cast, following the production’s triumphant world premiere at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in 2021.
The piece, which defies categorisation, has been described as the most powerful work of composer Kaija Saariaho’s five-decade career (New York Times).
The multi-layered libretto, by novelist Sofi Oksanen and dramaturg-translator Aleksi Barrière, explores the legacy of violence and its ripple-effect across the years. Director Simon Stone (Phaedra, National Theatre 2023; and Yerma, Young Vic 2016) makes his house debut alongside leading conductor Susanna Mälkki, who returns to work in London for the first time since 1996 (Thomas Adès‘ Powder her Face, Almeida Theatre). Set design is by Chloe Lamford; costume design is by Mel Page; lighting design is by James Farncombe, and choreography is by Arco Renz.
In present-day Helsinki, a wedding celebration falls apart as the suppressed memories of a collective tragedy resurface. Innocence tells the story of 13 people’s guilt and self-recrimination – each an isolated prisoner of their own trauma, while simultaneously bound to the others through the torment they share. The multilingual libretto brings together two intertwining timelines, which interact and set off a series of revelations.
Innocence’s dramaturg and translator-librettist Aleksi Barrière explains: “Like traumas, languages isolate people as much as they bring them together. In Innocence, the multiple languages coil the text and music together into an exploration of the layered desolation of our world.”
Innocence opens on the main stage on Monday 17 April and runs until Thursday 4 May. Tickets start at £6 and are on sale now via the ROH website.