November 2012

Sunken Garden –3D film opera

Sunken Garden posterSunken Garden

We are pleased to announce details of Michel van der Aa’s new opera, Sunken Garden.

A truly international endeavour, Sunken Garden will be a five-way co-production between English National Opera, Toronto Luminato Festival, Opera de Lyon, Holland Festival and London’s Barbican Centre.

The opera is the first collaboration between the composer and stage and film director Van der Aa, and the celebrated English novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas).

After One (2002), The Book of Disquiet (2008) and the acclaimed opera After Life (2005–2006), Sunken Garden is Van der Aa’s fourth work for music theatre. Like its predecessors it employs a distinctive combination of live action and video projections to tell its story, and for the first time includes 3D film.

Mitchell’s libretto tells an “occult mystery” story involving a software engineer, a glamorous young socialite, a neurotic film-maker and a gullible patroness of the arts. Each shares a dream of a “walled garden” between life and death in which there is no guilt or grief. Might this place be real? And what is the cost of cheating mortality?

Sunken Garden will be given its world premiere by English National Opera on 12 April 2013 at the Barbican Theatre. It will be sung by Roderick Williams (baritone), Katherine Manley (soprano), Claron McFadden (soprano), Kate Miller-Heidke (mezzo soprano) and Jonathan McGovern (baritone). The performances in the UK and the Netherlands will be conducted by André de Ridder.

After seven performances in London, the opera will tour through 2013, 2014 and 2015, with performances at the Holland Festival (3-9 June 2013), Toronto Luminato Festival (June 2014) and Opera de Lyon (February 2015).


Michel van der Aa (Netherlands, 1970) is a truly multidisciplinary figure in contemporary music. A unique voice, he combines composition with film and stage direction, and script writing. Classical instruments, voices, electronic sound, actors, theatre and video are all seamless extensions of his musical vocabulary.

upcoming performances

  • 26 July 2014
    Up-close (Malta premiere)
    Brno Contemporary Music Orchestra, cond. Pavel Snajdr
    Konstanze von Gutzeit, cello
    Malta Arts Festival, Każin Malti, Malta, Malta
  • 22 August 2014
    Ensemble L’instant donné
    7.30pm, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenzer Festspiele, Germany
  • 04 October 2014
    Transit (Greek premiere)
    Ergon Ensemble
    Stefanos Nassos, piano
    Pharos Contemporary Music Festival, Nicosia, Cyprus, Greece

recent tweets

  • The three percussionists are not going to be bored, even get to play Castagnettes, which is every percussionists dream ;-) #violinconcerto 22 July 2014
  • Call for Applications: Glyndebourne Young Composer in Residence 2015-2017 22 July 2014
  • That time the Pet Shop Boys wrote an opera about Alan Turing for the BBC Proms 21 July 2014
  • usual mood swings while finalising the full score; "this is epic, the answer to all violin concertos" and "utter utter crap, discard" 21 July 2014
  • Online metronome: /via @reaktorplayer 20 July 2014
  • So opera is dying, eh? Here’s how many new opera companies have formed in America since 2000 20 July 2014
  • "According to Operabase, last year 7,230 opera performances took place in Germany, one-third of the world’s total" 20 July 2014

recent video

Making of Sunken Garden

Making of Sunken GardenDocumentary by Lucas van Woerkum for NTR Podium.
30:00 min. | English subtitles

recent audio

The Book of Disquiet - Scene 3 & 4

Scene 3 & 4
Klaus Maria Brandauer, musikFabrik, cond. Martyn Brabbins
11:01 min.

recent works

recent publications


Editors Jonathan Reeder, Tim Rutherford-Johnson
Web-design Studio Lonne Wennekendonk
Realisation Martijn ten Napel
Latest update 16 July 2014