Michel van der Aa

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October 2017

New semi-staged version of Sunken Garden for Amsterdam and Essen

Sunken Garden semi-stagedSunken Garden

On 21 October the NTR ZaterdagMatinee will host the first performance of the semi-staged version of Van der Aa’s fourth opera, Sunken Garden at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. A re-imagining of the work, based on its second version made for Opéra de Lyon in 2015, it will be then taken to the Essen Philharmonie on 29 October before a new staging and its US premiere at the Dallas Opera in March 2018. For the October performances, the singers Roderick Williams, Katherine Manley and Claron McFadden will be supported by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, conducted by André de Ridder. In Dallas, the Dallas Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Nicole Paiement, and Williams, Manley and Miah Persson will star.

Sunken Garden connects the disappearances of a software engineer and a glamorous young socialite, with a neurotic film-maker of dubious credentials and a gullible patroness of the arts. An occult-mystery film-opera with a libretto by British novelist David Mitchell, it deals 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. Previous performances of the opera have been given, to acclaim, at London’s Barbican, the Amsterdam Holland Festival and Opéra de Lyon.

October 2017

Rave reviews for US premiere of Blank Out

Blank Out NYCMiah Persson

Michel van der Aa’s 3D chamber opera Blank Out has completed a highly successful US premiere run in New York. All five performances at the Park Avenue Armory in September were sold out, and the work received rave reviews from the press.

James R. Oestreich of The New York Times called Van der Aa not only “a master of allusion” but also “a full-out virtuoso” of mixed media, while Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker that “rarely have modern techniques and ancient musical virtues coexisted more naturally”. Heidi Waleson in The Wall Street Journal praised the opera’s “seamless integration of technology,” calling it “emotionally intense” and “disturbing and unforgettable.” In The Huffington Post, Marlynn Wei wrote that “Van der Aa probes the depths of traumtic loss and pushes chamber opera to new realms.” A qualified psychiatrist as well as an arts critic, Wei added that “Van der Aa has masterfully captured the complex elements of memory, loss and identity … The resulting visual is both haunting and stunning.”

Commissioned by Dutch National Opera, Lucerne Festival, and Opera Rome, 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.
Building on the technological innovation of Sunken Garden, ‘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, and is accompanied on film by the baritone Roderick Williams – both “magnificent singers and magnetic presences,” according to Steve Smith in The Log Journal. The electronic soundtrack of vocal sounds is performed by the Nederlands Kamerkoor. 

June 2017

Lucerne Summer Festival residency

Up-close VakilUp-close, Vakil Eelman

This August and September, Michel van der Aa will be composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Summer Festival, one of the world’s most celebrated festivals of classical music. Over the course of a month a large cross-selection of Van der Aa’s works, including music theatre, concertos and chamber music will be performed.

The list of concerts begins on 13 August with performances of two major stage works, both of them receiving their Swiss premieres. In the morning there is the chance to see Van der Aa’s widely acclaimed opera The Book of Disquiet, a cutting-edge integration of music, live action and video constructed from fragments by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa that addresses the subject of multiple personalities. Walter Sigi Arnold will play the solo acting role of Pessoa’s alter-ego Bernardo Soares, while the Ensemble of Lucerne Festival Alumni will be conducted by Duncan Ward.

Shortly afterwards, on the same day, the soprano Miah Persson will give the first Swiss performance of the recent 3D chamber opera Blank Out, which also features baritone Roderick Williams and the Netherlands Chamber Choir on film. Completed in 2016, Blank Out explores a tragic mother–son relationship through the life and poetry of the South African writer Ingrid Jonker. The Lucerne performance ends a successful international tour for a work that this year has also been staged in Rome, Beijing, Helsinki and Hanover.

The 17 August sees another major composition receive its first performance in Switzerland, the Grawemeyer Award-winning concerto for cello and film Up-close. The soloist will be Lucerne Festival Academy graduate Jay Campbell who, along with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, is one of the festival’s two specially invited artistes étoiles, and the youngest to have been chosen in the event’s history.

On 26 August the Ensemble of Lucerne Festival Alumni return once more to perform Hysteresis, a fourth Swiss premiere, with clarinet soloist Martin Adámek and conductor Matthias Pintscher. Van der Aa’s concerto will be paired with those for violin and piano by György Ligeti, played by Kopatchinskaja and David Kadouch, respectively.

Finally, on 7 September, students of the Lucerne University of Music, conducted by Gregor Mayrhofer, will perform three smaller works in an early evening portrait of the composer : Mask, for ensemble and soundtrack; Transit, for piano and video; and And how are we today?, for mezzo-soprano, double bass and piano, with the singer Daniela Argentino.

The festival’s theme is ‘identity’, and works in all four concerts have been chosen with this in mind, whether the fragmented personalities of The Book of Disquiet, the split identities of Up-close, Hysteresis and Mask, or the quest to reconstruct oneself in Blank Out.

In addition to these four concerts, Van der Aa will also give composition masterclasses and seminars between 12 and 26 August, alongside Dieter Ammann and the Artistic Director of the Lucerne Festival Academy, Wolfgang Rihm.

- View programme details and order tickets

November 2016

US premieres of 'Blank Out' and 'Sunken Garden' to feature in 2017–18 season

Sunken Garden - bloodpondSunken Garden

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

about

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

  • 15 December 2017
    The Book of Disquiet (Greek premiere)
    ERGON ENSEMBLE
    Kasper De Roo, conductor
    Miltiadis Fiorentzis, actor
    Onassis Cultural Centre, Anthens, Greece
  • 16 December 2017
    The Book of Disquiet
    ERGON ENSEMBLE
    Kasper De Roo, conductor
    Miltiadis Fiorentzis, actor
    Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens, Greece
  • 28 February 2018
    Memo
    Thomas Gould, violin
    Kings Place, London, United Kingdom

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  • Tonight: Up-close 
Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Ensemble
Daniel Nesta Curtis, director
Alexandra Thompson, cello 
College of Fine Arts, Alumni Concert Hall, Pittsburgh, U.S.A.
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#celloconcerto #film #contemporarymusic Tonight: Up-close Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Ensemble Daniel Nesta Curtis, director Alexandra Thompson, cello College of Fine Arts, Alumni Concert Hall, Pittsburgh, U.S.A. - - - #celloconcerto #film #contemporarymusic

Twitter

  • the thing with playing guitar through an epic looping delay is that the fuckups also haunt you for ever 05 July 2017
  • and here am I covering Klaus Maria Brandauer in paper boats https://t.co/WarKXl6POv 04 July 2017
  • preparing "The Book of Disquiet" for Lucerne Festival. Came across these 'making of’ photos.… https://t.co/f16zqUmda9 04 July 2017

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upclose TNSol Gabetta, cello. Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Candida Thompson
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Latest update 18 November 2017