Kaija Saariaho, who wrote acclaimed works that made her the among the most prominent composers of the 21st century, died Friday. She was 70.
Saariaho died at her apartment in Paris, her family said in a statement posted on her Facebook page. She had been diagnosed in February 2021 with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable brain tumor.
"The multiplying tumors did not affect her cognitive facilities until the terminal phase of her illness," the statement said. Her family said Saariaho had undergone experimental treatment at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris.
Her "L'Amour de Loin (Love from Afar)" premiered at the Salzburg Festival in 2000 and made its U.S. debut at the Santa Fe Opera two years later. In 2016, it became the first staged work by a female composer at the Metropolitan Opera since Ethel M. Smyth's "Der Wald" in 1903.
"She was one of the most original voices and enjoyed enormous success," Met general manager Peter Gelb said. "It had impact on one's intellect as well as one's emotions. It was music that really moves people's hearts. She was truly one of the great, great artists."
Saariaho did not like to be thought of as a female composer, rather a woman who was a composer.
"I would not even like to speak about it," she said during an interview with the Associated Press after a piano rehearsal at the Met. "It should be a shame."