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.