Michel van der Aa / News / 

Dutch and Belgian premieres of ‘The Book of Water’

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Michel van der Aa’s latest music theatre work The Book of Water will have its Dutch and Belgian premieres on 11 and 12 November. The performance stars actor Samuel West and a string quartet from Amsterdam Sinfonietta, with actor Timothy West and soprano Mary Bevan on film.

‘The Book of Water’ had its acclaimed world premiere last September at the Venice Biennale. Peter Krausse, writing in Opernwelt, described the piece as ‘Ein Genialisches Gesamtkunstwerk’, and The Guardian’s Andrew Clements wrote ‘Typically elegant and thoughtful music theatre work…the integration of the live and the recorded is immaculate, the cinematography coolly elegant’.

The ‘Book of Water’ is based on the novella ‘Man in the Holocene’ by Swiss author Max Frisch, adapted by Van der Aa and dramaturg Madelon Kooijman. The plot revolves around Mr Geiser, a widower living alone in a remote village, who fears he is losing his memory. Heavy rains have started landslides and the hills outside his house are starting to erode, as a parallel to his deteriorating memory. The boundary between exterior and interior blurs as Geiser becomes increasingly desperate to find a last moment of clarity, about himself, nature and civilisation.


‘Shades of Red’ will have its Dutch premiere on 10 November at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam, followed by a performance at November Music in Den Bosch on 12 November. The ensemble piece will be performed by ASKO|Schönberg, conducted by Gregory Charette.

‘Shades of Red’ is a musical conversation about the color red. Its four parts – Carmine, Magenta, Crimson, and Vermilion – each showcase a different tonal shade, as well as a different reaction hierarchy between the instruments. The prerecorded soundtrack extends and mirrors the sound of the instruments and functions as an alter ego of the acoustic sound, confronting the players with a warped version of their own playing. A special role is carved out for the Fender Rhodes and Hammond keyboards, which often create rhythmic markings and impulses that shape the rest of the ensemble. The work is a study for the opera ‘Upload’.

‘Shades of Red’ was commissioned by the Kölner Philharmonie, MusikFabrik, London Sinfonietta, and ASKO|Schönberg.