Michel van der Aa


January 2009

World premiere of 'The Book of Disquiet / Das Buch der Unruhe'

Book of Disquiet - Klaus thinkingKlaus Maria Brandauer

Michel van der Aa’s newest music theatre piece, The Book of Disquiet was successfully performed on 2 January as the official opening of the LINZ09 (Austria) European Capital of Culture year. The premiere in the Hafenhalle was the first in a series of three sold-out performances.

The Book of Disquiet is based on texts by Fernando Pessoa. This full-length work features the most essential entries from the Portuguese master’s fictitious diary The Book of Disquiet. We follow the protagonist, played by the acclaimed actor Klaus Maria Brandauer, on stage and in video projections, and witness a haunting mosaic of dreams, psychological notations, autobiographical vignettes and unsparing introspection.

In addition to his role as composer, Van der Aa is also film and stage director. In seamlessly integrating music, staging and video images he continues the path taken with his acclaimed operas One and After Life. Alter egos created in the video projections supplement and extend the protagonist on stage, and a moving portrait rises of a man coming to terms with his own identity.

Following its first performances in Linz, the work will be presented at the ZaterdagMatinee at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw on 10 October 2009.

“Magically, it all coheres: the parade of visuals, beautifully shot under Van der Aa’s direction; the musing disconnectedness of Brandauer’s utterances, which create the texture of a dream. If it’s in the nature of Pessoa’s book that there can be no resolution, there is a kind of closure here, a sense of knowing much more about the author and his alter ego than we ever would otherwise.”
— The Guardian, Andrew Clements

“Van der Aa’s success is due to the subtlety with which he organises all the ingredients. The music reflects the feelings and ideas described: at times melancholy, at times highly formal, but always dramatic given the alternation between the two.”
NRC Handelsblad, Mischa Spel


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

  • 05 November 2020
    Transit (Korean premiere)
    Sooyoen Lim, piano
    PAN Music Festival, Seoul, South Korea
  • 04 February 2021
    Premiere of version for ensemble
    Insomnio, cond. Ulrich Pöll
    Mieko Kanno, viool. Charles Watt, cello
    Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 26 February 2021
    Shelter (German premiere)
    NDR Chor, Klaas Stok conductor
    20.00 hrs, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany


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Editors Jonathan Reeder, Tim Rutherford-Johnson
Web-design Studio Lonne Wennekendonk
Realisation Martijn ten Napel & Kyver
Latest update 25 September 2020