Michel van der Aa


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

  • 11 October 2016
    Zubin Kanga, piano
    Melbourne Festival
    Recital Centre, Melbourne, Australia
  • 15 October 2016
    And how are we today?
    CCMM ensemble
    Ekaterina Kichigina, soprano
    Rakhmaninoff Hall, Conservatory, Moscow, Russia
  • 20 October 2016
    Blank Out (Chinese premiere)
    Katherine Manley, soprano
    Roderick Williams (film), Nederlands Kamerkoor (film)
    Beijing Festival
    7.30pm, The Oranje, Taikoo Li Sanlitun South, Beijing, China


last instagram photo

  • LEGO time with my son 🔋👾 LEGO time with my son 🔋👾

recent tweets

  • 1/2 Dear Apple, due to having to dismiss the 472 daily iPhone-system-update messages I won’t be able to finish my orchestra piece in time, 28 September 2016
  • 2/2 please get in touch to let me know which measures you’ll be composing for me. Especially the middle part needs rethinking. Thx, Michel 28 September 2016
  • they gave me a defective microphone, I can’t compose today 27 September 2016
  • Job opening: Production Manager (freelance, Netherlands) Details: https://t.co/6V1nSPeee4 https://t.co/g4zROEZ23k 27 September 2016
  • Job opening! Looking for a Production manager (freelance, Netherlands) to coordinate tour of my music-theatre works: https://t.co/6V1nSPeee4 26 September 2016
  • my morning so far: coffee composing, first more coffee head on desk in desperation checking useless websites composing, oh time for lunch 26 September 2016

recent video

Violin Concerto (excerpt)

Violin concerto TNJanine Janssen, violin
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski
2:33 min. excerpt

recent audio


Editors Jonathan Reeder, Tim Rutherford-Johnson
Web-design Studio Lonne Wennekendonk
Realisation Martijn ten Napel & Kyver
Latest update 25 September 2016