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World premiere of “After Life”

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Roderick Williams & Yvette Bonner

Michel van der Aa’s new opera After Life was successfully performed on 2 June as the opening feature of the Holland Festival 2006. The premiere in the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ was the first in a series of six sold-out performances. After Life, performed by an international cast and the Asko Ensemble conducted by Otto Tausk, was a co-production of De Nederlandse Opera and Holland Festival.

The innovative aspect of After Life is its use of film images and sampled soundtracks as an essential element of the score. Staging, film and music are seamlessly interwoven, intensifying Kore-Eda’s moving libretto. In addition to composing the music, Van der Aa wrote and directed the film segments and is also stage director for the production.
Audiences and the international press were unanimously enthusiastic. The inclusion of filmed monologues as a crucial element garnered special praise, producing ‘a theatrical unity of unparalleled success’ (de Telegraaf).

Van der Aa has put together a whimsical collage of transparent layers, part documentary film, part philosophy, part feel-good fantasy narrative. […] Van der Aa, stage director and mastermind as well as composer, pushes the boundaries of all of his media. This is the Gesamtkunst of the future. [***** FIVE STARS]
— Shirley Apthorp, Financial Times, 7 juni 2006

Van der Aa’s skill at combining film and operatic action is breathtaking […] Van der Aa has already established himself as the forerunner of a new generation of composers who thinks in video as well as in audio terms […] After Life is a masterpiece.
— Erik Voermans, Het Parool, 3 juni 2006

The film, as well the opera, is characterised by a media-specific type of reflection, by subtle, intelligent irony […] Michel van der Aa’s music, especially After Life, is particularly impressive for not suppressing its emotional quality […] Especially fascinating at the Amsterdam premiere was the seamless interlocking of all the expressive elements. For once, video footage was not used as a simple visual addition, but rather as a tantamount element of composition, along with the music and stage action.
— Gerhard Rohde, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 07.06.2006

It’s the meshing of that plot with the documentary elements that proves so teasingly effective […] four interviewees are seen on video encountering the operatic characters, their touching stories seem to infuse the fantasy with something much more directly emotional. […] Van der Aa’s ensemble writing is dominated by richly detailed string textures and enriched by electronic transformations. Michel van der Aa is the hottest property in Dutch music at the moment.
— Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 8 June 2006

After Life is an enthralling piece of music theatre
— Frits van der Waa, de Volkskrant, 6 juni 2006

Van der Aa has created with After Life a spectacular new world of opera.
— Peter van der Lint, Trouw, 5 juni 2006

This is the way of 21st-century opera
— Jochem Valkenburg, NRC Handelsblad, 3 june 2006