The 2017–18 season will see the US premieres of Michel van der Aa’s two most recent operas. First, in September 2017 the Park Avenue Armory in New York will stage Blank Out in five performances with the soprano Miah Persson. This follows performances in four other countries this year – China, Finland, Germany and Switzerland.
A chamber opera that combines live action with interactive 3D film and electronic music, Blank Out centres on a dialogue between a man and his mother, and the reconstruction of a traumatic event that took place between them. Its libretto is based upon the work and life of South African poet Ingrid Jonker, who took her own life by drowning, and is a deeply human consideration of memory and the way in which people reconstruct their pasts.
The performances will run at the Park Avenue Armory from 21 to 25 September 2017. Tickets start at $40 and may be purchased from: armoryonpark.org
Then, in March 2018, the Dallas Opera will present the US premiere of Sunken Garden.This will be the second presentation of the revised version of the piece, which was itself premiered at Opéra de Lyon in 2015.
An occult-mystery film-opera, Sunken Garden is a collaboration between Van der Aa and the acclaimed English novelist David Mitchell. Dealing in bright hoax and dark truth, in patronage and manipulation, in the virtual and the bodily, in the isolation of the broadband age, and in the primal impulse to cheat mortality at any cost, it is Van der Aa’s fourth work of music theatre, and his first to make use of 3D film. The Dallas Opera run follows successful performances at London’s ENO, Amsterdam Holland Festival and Opéra de Lyon, France.
Dallas Opera General Director and CEO Keith Cerny became determined to bring the opera to the USA after seeing one of the Lyon performances, and has described how he found himself “captivated by Michel van der Aa’s extraordinary musical and visual vocabulary … I was certain we were witnessing a work of rare originality and multi-disciplinary innovation.”
The Dallas Opera will give four performances of ‘Sunken Garden’, between 9 and 17 March 2018, with a cast of Roderick Williams, Katherine Manley and Miah Persson. The Dallas Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Nicole Paiement.
- read the Dallas Opera press release
The 2016/17 season is here, and it is already looking like a busy one for Michel van der Aa. Top of the agenda is an international tour of Blank Out. Following successful performances in Amsterdam and Rome – with the press describing the work as ‘impeccable and enthralling’, and ‘wonderfully fluent and effective’ – Van der Aa’s 3D chamber opera will be performed in China, Finland, Germany and Switzerland.
Taking the life and work of the South African poet Ingrid Jonker as its basis, ‘Blank Out’ tells the story of a son coming to terms with the drowning of his mother at a young age. A sensitive and innovatively constructed meditation on memory and loss, the opera uses 3D film, interactive projections, and live and electronic music to consider how people reconstruct and deal with traumatic life events.
On 20 and 21 October, the opera will be a highlight at the Beijing Music Festival. These performances – the first in China for a stage work by Van der Aa – will be followed by three more at the Musica Nova Festival in Helsinki, on 4, 6, and 8 February 2017. The opera will receive its German premiere in spring 2017, details will be announced in January. Finally, ‘Blank Out’ will be featured at the Lucerne Summer Festival in August 2017. The performances in Beijing and Helsinki will feature soprano Katherine Manley as the on-stage soloist, while Miah Persson, who created the role, will appear in Lucerne. Roderick Williams and the Nederlandse Kamerkoor are once again the performers on film and soundtrack.
The Book of Disquiet
Featured composer at Musica Nova and Lucerne festivals
Michel van der Aa will be the featured composer at two festivals this season, both of them including performances of Blank Out.
In February, Van der Aa will be the featured composer at Helsinki’s Musica Nova festival. As well as three performances of ‘Blank Out’, on 4, 6 and 8 February, the festival includes Spaces of Blank, performed by Nora Fischer (mezzo-soprano), the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and André de Ridder (conductor); and the clarinet concerto Hysteresis, performed by Kari Kriikuu (clarinet), the Tapiola Sinfonietta and Mario Venzago (conductor).
Later in the year, Van der Aa also be the featured composer at the Summer Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland. Blank Out is among the works scheduled to be performed, and the opera will open the four-week-long festival on 12 August. The festival programme will also include the Swiss premieres of Hysteresis, The Book of Disquiet and Up-close ; more details will be announced later in the season.
New piece for orchestra and dance
Work is in progress on a new piece for orchestra and dance, for the German Bundesjugendorchester, conducted by Alexander Shelley, and in collaboration with the Bundesjugendballett, choreographed by Andrey Kaydanowsky. The new work will receive its premiere on 13 January at the Staatsoper, Hamburg, before going on tour to seven cities around Germany, including Essen (14 January), Berlin (16 January) and Dresden (18 January).
And there’s more …
Other highlights this season include a performance by the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer, of Second Self for orchestra and soundtrack, on 5 February at the Mendelssohn-Saal in Düsseldorf. And on 5 October 2017 Hysteresis will receive its Swedish premiere, with soloist Kari Kriikuu and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
May 31 sees the Italian premiere of Michel van der Aa’s chamber opera for soprano and 3D film Blank Out at the Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome. The one-off performance forms part of Teatro dell’opera di Roma’s Fast Forward Festival, and will be sung by Miah Persson.
It follows a highly successful and sold-out world premiere run at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam. ‘Blank Out’ was praised as ‘unusually beautiful’ (Mischa Spel, NRC) and ‘wonderfully fluent and effective’ (Andrew Clements, The Guardian). Frederik Bernsten (Trouw) wrote that the work shows that ‘Van der Aa is going from strength to strength and is refining his theatrical palette on the firm foundation of his musical idiom.’
‘Blank Out’ is based upon the life and work of Ingrid Jonker. Sometimes described as the “South African Sylvia Plath,” Jonker was a brilliant poet who wrote against the apartheid regime, but whose traumatic and troubled life led to her suicide at 31 in the sea off Cape Town. ‘Blank Out’ uses the intersection of live action and 3D video to explore the nature of memory and the effects of trauma. The Swedish soprano Miah Persson appears on stage as a lone woman dealing with a disturbing event in her past. She is accompanied on film by the baritone Roderick Williams, and on the work’s electronic soundtrack by the Nederlands Kamerkoor.
Tickets for the Rome performance may be obtained from TicketOne.it. Blank Out is a co-commission of Dutch National Opera with the Lucerne Festival and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, and will tour internationally next season.
Read more about Blank Out
Watch the Black Out trailer
Two new releases have been issued on Michel Van der Aa’s record label Disquiet. The first (DQM05) features two recent concertos, the clarinet concerto ‘Hysteresis’ (2013), and the ‘Violin Concerto’ (2014). Both are performed on the recording by their dedicatees, Kari Kriikku (clarinet) and Janine Jansen (violin), with the support of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and the Royal Concertgebouw orchestra, respectively.
The second release (DQM06) is of a single, multimedia work, ‘Transit’ (2009), for piano, electronics and black and white film. Performed by Benjamin Kobler (piano) and Joe Bendavid (actor), ‘Transit’ is a composite work comprised of elements from the 2000 piano composition ‘Just Before’, and Van der Aa’s short film ‘Passage’, made at the New York Film Academy.
The concerto recording has already received some warm reviews, with Erik Voermans (Het Parool) describing the Violin Concerto as ‘a fantastic work brimming with moments of beauty and consolation … a captivating and exhilarating discourse’. Frits van der Waa (de Volksrant) calls it ‘a superb performance’ that underlines that Van der Aa is ‘first and foremost a first-rate composer’.
‘Hysteresis’ and the ‘Violin Concerto’ are available as a CD, or together or individually for downloads in high quality WAV or MP3 format; ‘Transit’ is available for download as a high definition MP4 movie, at either 720 or 1080p.
Visit the Disquiet store
Watch the Transit teaser