Michel van der Aa


February 2018

US Premieres of Sunken Garden and Violin Concerto

Janine JansenJanine Jansen

March 8 kicks off a busy month for Michel van der Aa, who has two major works receiving US premieres: his 2014 Violin Concerto for Janine Jansen, being performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra in Philadelphia and later at Carnegie Hall in New York; and his film-opera Sunken Garden, presented by the Dallas Opera.

Michel van der Aa’s 2017–2018 season (which kicked off with the hugely successful US premiere of Blank Out at the Park Avenue Armory) ramps up in March with US premieres of two major works. His Violin Concerto premieres on March 8 with Janine Jansen and the Philadelphia Orchestra, led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who also bring the work to Carnegie Hall on March 13 for its New York premiere. On March 9–17, the Dallas Opera presents the first US production of Van der Aa’s occult-mystery film-opera Sunken Garden.

December 2017

First Greek performances for The Book of Disquiet

Ana and oxAna Moura

The Book of Disquiet is to receive its first Greek performances on 15 and 16 December, at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens. Making use of a new Greek translation by Annie Spyrakou, the opera will feature the actor Miltiadis Fiorentzis, and the Greek contemporary music group Ergon Ensemble, conducted by Kasper de Roo.

A cutting-edge integration of music, live action and video, The Book of Disquiet is built from text fragments by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. In his work, Pessoa often cast himself in a series of distinct characters, or ‘heteronyms’, portrayed as multiple personalities on the video and soundtrack of Van der Aa’s work. His ‘Book of Disquiet’ was a posthumously reconstructed autobiography of the alter ego Bernando Soares, described as a ‘mutilation’ of Pessoa’s own personality – an obsessive cataloguer of anecdotes, dreams and moods that gradually push him closer to the nature of the self.

Van der Aa’s third piece of music theatre, premiered in 2009, is also one of his most widely performed. Last season it was staged in London and New York, receiving strong reviews in both cities. In his 5-star review for The Times in London, Richard Morrison described how Pessoa’s ‘manic intensity beneath a seemingly static surface is wonderfully explored in Van der Aa’s score’, while the New York Times’s James R. Ostreich found it ‘memorable … imaginative … riveting’.

Tickets and more information may be found here.

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. 


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

  • 30 March 2019
    Blank Out (Greek premiere)
    Katherine Manley, soprano
    Roderick Williams (film), Nederlands Kamerkoor (film)
    Megaron, Athens, Greece
  • 31 March 2019
    Louis Goldstein, piano
    3pm, NYU Steinhardt Music and Performing Arts Professions, New York, U.S.A.
  • 31 March 2019
    Blank Out
    Katherine Manley, soprano
    Roderick Williams (film), Nederlands Kamerkoor (film)
    Megaron, Athens, Greece



  • 🎈Done!! 🎈
‘Akin’, my new double concerto for Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Sol Gabetta. Commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Kölner Philharmonie.

9 May 2019 - Kölner Philharmonie
10 May 2019 - Concertgebouw Amsterdam
7 & 8 June 2019 - Vancouver
21 March 2020 - Ottawa 🎈Done!! 🎈 ‘Akin’, my new double concerto for Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Sol Gabetta. Commissioned by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Kölner Philharmonie. 9 May 2019 - Kölner Philharmonie 10 May 2019 - Concertgebouw Amsterdam 7 & 8 June 2019 - Vancouver 21 March 2020 - Ottawa

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eightvirtual reality installation ft. Kate Miller-Heidke
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Editors Jonathan Reeder, Tim Rutherford-Johnson
Web-design Studio Lonne Wennekendonk
Realisation Martijn ten Napel & Kyver
Latest update 23 March 2019