La Passion de Simone


Musical path in 15 stations (2013)

Oratorio by Kaija Saariaho on a text by Amin Maalouf (2006)
World-premiere of the composer’s
new chamber version (2013)


Stage direction  Aleksi Barrière
Musical direction Clément Mao-Takacs
Scenography and stage management  Pauline Squelbut
Lighting  Étienne Exbrayat
Costumes  Liisa Nieminen

Solo soprano  Sayuri Araida
Vocal ensemble  Sandra DarcelMarianne SeleskovitchJohan ViauFlorent Baffi / Romain Dayez
Actress  Isabelle Seleskovitch
Instrumental ensemble  Secession Orchestra (19 musicians)

Duration: 70′

Premiere on November 14th, 2013 in Bratislava in the framework of the Melos-Ethos Festival.

A co-production by La Chambre aux échos, Music Centre Slovakia and Festival de Saint-Denis, with the support of Adami and Spedidam.

The work of a great novelist and one of the most talented living composers in the fields of orchestral and vocal music, La Passion de Simone was not written as a stage piece. Nevertheless, it contains all the ingredients for an imaginary and collective theatre form: a woman, about whom nothing is known except that she is our contemporary, meditates on the life of Simone Weil (1909-1943) and asks herself what can be learned from the ‘luminous trajectory’ of this philosopher and activist who uncompromisingly attempted to experience the oppression and the violence her fellow humans were subjected to, in order to better understand and fight it. This monologue is haunted by the thinking voice of Simone Weil herself, both absent and present in the form of an actress, by a vocal ensemble of four who are ‘the others’ in the broadest sense, past and present victims and witnesses to human oppression, and by a chamber orchestra that accompanies these tableaux and meditations like an inner landscape. All these performers are gathered in one same pared-down space, not to illustrate a biography, but to ‘walk again, mentally, the path of an agony’. We are not invited to be spectators of a drama, but to participate in an agnostic prayer about our collective memory and values, as crystallized by an exceptional individual’s craving for the absolute. Music is, ultimately, the purest form of theatre.

Further performances
– December 29th and 30th, 2022 at Musiikkitalo(Finland) with Avanti! Chamber Orchestra.
– March 10th, 2019 at Tampere-Talo(Finland) with Avanti! Chamber Orchestra.
– October 7th and 8th, 2018 at Théâtre Graslin (Opéra Angers-Nantes) with Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire.
– May 31st, 2017 at 8 pm at the Bergen International Festival
in collaboration with BIT20 Ensemble.
– November 19th, 2016 at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater in New York City
in collaboration with ICE Ensemble and Mannes School of Music.
– January 28th, 2016 at the Biennale NJORD in Copenhagen (Denmark)
in collaboration with Avanti! Chamber Orchestra.
– November 14th, 2014 at the Comédie de Clermont / Centre Lyrique Clermont-Auvergne (France).
– May 27th, 2014 at the Festival de Saint-Denis (France).
– May 17th, 2014 at the KODY Festival in Lublin (Poland).

Program notes in English (PDF)

Feedback & Press

“I’ve had the joy to attend, in New York in November 2016, a new production of La Passion de Simone, first premiered ten years earlier in Vienna. Remarkably served —in its staging, musical direction and by its performers— by a young, dedicated, talented and inventive team, this performance was, for all those who were lucky enough to see it, a moment of aesthetic pleasure and a poignant meditation on History, the present times, and human condition.”
(Amin Maalouf)

“A poignant production”
(The Economist)

“This is a show that makes the Bergen International Festival important, and that is rare to find anywhere, both in terms of its essential content and of its musical and theatrical qualities.”
(Bodil Maroni Jensen, Klassisk Musikkmagasin)

“The Secession Orchestra was placed under the focused and watchful direction of Clément Mao-Takacs. (…) Young director Aleksi Barrière (…) imagined, in collaboration with Pauline Squelbut, an efficient stage setting. (…) Everything is crafted with restraint, in a spirit of grave secrecy, in order to compose tableaux that suggest and concentrate emotion.”
(Rémy Louis, Diapason)

“Mao-Takacs’s mastery of the score was superlative as he conducted the Secession Orchestra. (…) Supported by lightings just as minimalistic by Etienne Exbrayat, Aleksi Barrière’s pared-down and challenging staging translated most faithfully the libretto’s intimacy and subtle taint of spirituality.”
(Roland Duclos,

“… a shrine of timbres crafted by conductor Clément Mao-Takacs and his Secession Orchestra. (…) Just as rigorous and sparing is Aleksi Barrière’s stage direction. (…) One leaves this Passion de Simone filled with energy and an uncommon form of lightness.”
(Éric Dahan, Libération)

“Aleksi Barrière appears, like Peter Sellars (this Passion’s first director), to be willing to integrate the theatrical performance into the spectator’s life: the way what happens on stage opens up to what happens in the audience, through how everything in the theatre is left visible, offers the perfect shrine to the evocation of Simone Weil, who is canonised by this work.”
(Christophe Dilys, Classicagenda)

“The performance at the Saint-Denis Basilica, as an opening to the yearly Festival, offers more than a mere staging, an actual stage production. (…) Lighting specially made for the architectural environment and video projections in the background (…) perfect this intelligent visualisation. A discrete and efficient actorial direction confirms the impression of a ritual, punctuated with splendid pictures. (…) The twenty or so soloists of the Secession Orchestra, under the precise and scrupulous direction of Clément Mao-Takacs, illuminate a more than appealing score.”
(Jean-Pierre Robert, L’éducation musicale)