I hope you are all well. Despite the air of anxiety and insecurity around the war in Ukraine, the arts scene seems to be slowly picking up the pieces after two years of Covid lockdowns and cancellations. I’m so happy to be at live performances again. How I’ve missed the energy and focus of a live audience! I’m very much looking forward to next month’s US premiere of my opera Upload at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. This is one of my favourite performance spaces in the world, a magical place. I loved the performances of ’Blank Out’ there in 2017, and I can’t wait to present my latest opera to the NY audiences. The next few weeks will also see performances of my violin and clarinet concertos; more information about them is below.
Over the last months I’ve been working on a new chamber theatre piece that will be premiered at the Venice Biennale next fall. Entitled ‘The Book of Water’, it’s a work for actor, string quartet and film. This full-length work is based upon the novella ‘Man in the Holocene’ by Swiss author Max Frisch. I’ll tell you more about it in the next newsletter.
Warm regards, Michel
North American premiere of opera ‘Upload’
Following on the heels of the acclaimed performances in Bregenz and Amsterdam, Michel van der Aa’s opera Upload will have its North American premiere at the Park Avenue Armory in New York on 22-30 March. The film opera examines our relationships with technology, mortality and identity, using the story of a father (baritone Roderick Williams) who, in order to ‘be there’ for his daughter (soprano Julia Bullock) after his inevitable death, has his mind uploaded for eternity. The production uses both live orchestra (MusikFabrik conducted by Otto Tausk) and electronics, plus film. Despite its advanced technology, it’s still very emotional and human. The production was praised by the New York Times as ‘[a] masterly weaving of music, film and motion-capture technology…spare yet richly complicated…the work of an artist in absolute command of his toolkit’.
For tickets and details: https://armoryonpark.org/programs_events/detail/upload
The opera will also have its German premiere soon, in the Cologne Opera’s Staatenhaus. Performances run from 18-22 April. For more information and tickets: https://www.oper.koeln/de/programm/upload/6081
Violin and clarinet concertos in Japan, Finland and Germany
Michel van der Aa’s Violin Concerto will receive its Japanese premiere on 8 March with violinist Simone Lamsma and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kazuki Yamada.
The concerto was originally written in 2014 for Janine Jansen and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. It mixes traditional concerto elements (a three-movement form, symphonic orchestration) and Van der Aa’s penchant for theatricality.
You can read more about the concerto at https://vanderaa.net/work/violinconcerto/.
The clarinet concerto Hysteresis will be performed twice in March. The first performance is in Finland, on 10 March at the Stormen Konserthus in Bodø, where clarinettist Kari Kriikku (who also recorded the piece) will join the Arctic Philharmonic, conducted by Ingar Bergby. The second performance will be in Germany, on 15 March at the BASF-Feierabendhaus in Ludwigshafen, with the Münchener Kammerorchester and soloist Reto Bieri.
‘Hysteresis’ is Van der Aa’s first major piece for clarinet. Its title refers to the ability of materials, even non-living ones like metals, to ‘remember’ something of their past, which we can still perceive in the present. It combines live playing with recorded and digitally processed material that sometimes ‘mirrors’ the acoustic sounds in the hall like distant memories.
More information about the piece: https://vanderaa.net/work/hysteresis/