Writing to Vermeer is the second operatic collaboration between the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen (Rosa, A Horse Drama; De Materie) and English filmmaker Peter Greenaway (The Pillow Book; The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover). This epic, multimedia opera fills the stage with breathtaking images that combine 17th-century Delft with visual metaphors for the loss of the invincibility of youth. The action revolves around eighteen letters relating domestic anxieties and coy affection, that are sung by the artist’s wife, mother, and model. Luminous Images of street riots and the actual letters they wrote are projected above, beside, and around them, while Louis XIV’s marauding army invades both stage and screen. Directors Greenaway and Saskia Boddeke revel in the Holland of 1672 – when the Dutch flooded their own countryside in an attempt at military defense, and as the country’s Golden Age was drawing to a close – as a historical mirror for the instability of our own time.
Vermeer’s restless chorus of women and children
Scene from the opera
is finally brought to a standstill as the stage is flooded with water.
Van der Aa composed thirteen electronic music inserts for the opera, which accompany the video projections as ‘windows to the world’ – historical events that took place during Vermeer’s life, such as the French invasion and the murder of the De Witte brothers.
First performance 01 December 1999, Opera by Peter Greenaway and Louis Andriessen. Directed by Saskia Boddeke.
Commissioned by The Netherlands Opera
Published by Boosey & Hawkes