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Michel van der Aa: three major works in Amsterdam focus

(September 2009)

Michel van der Aa’s opera After Life returns to Netherlands Opera on 29 September, and The Book of Disquiet and Spaces of Blank are showcased on 10 October.

Amsterdam audiences currently have the opportunity – in the space of a fortnight – to experience Michel van der Aa’s three largest-scale works to date before they tour internationally. The young Dutch composer’s star has risen exponentially over the past five years, and his cutting-edge blending of music with video and electronic media puts him at the forefront of today’s contemporary composers.

Van der Aa’s opera After Life, based on the film by Hirokazu Kore-Eda, was premiered at the 2006 Holland Festival in a sell-out run at the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, and its success prompted the revival on the Netherlands Opera’s main stage running between 29 September and 4 October. The original cast is reunited with the Asko Schoenberg Ensemble conducted by Otto Tausk. The composer has revised the work in preparation for touring, and the production travels to the Lyon Opera in March 2010 and to London in May 2010 in a semi-staged version at the Barbican Centre as part of its Present Voices series.

Following its premiere in Linz in January, van der Aa’s The Book of Disquiet receives its Dutch premiere at the Zaterdag Matinee concert at the Concertgebouw on 10 October, with actor Klaus Maria Brandauer in the leading role. Fiction and reality blur in this tapestry of fragments by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Brandauer appears on stage as well as on video together with actor João Reis and fado star Ana Moura, while MusikFabrik is conducted by Martyn Brabbins. The production travels on for its German premiere at the Staatstheater Saarbrücken on 30 October and to the Casa da Música in Porto in 2010.

Also on 10 October, presented by Dutch Music Days, is a second Amsterdam performance of the song-cycle Spaces of Blank. The work is van der Aa’s first major orchestral work and proved a critical and audience hit at its premiere by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in March. Sung texts by Emily Dickinson, Rozalie Hirs and Anne Carson explore themes of anxiety while the orchestra interacts with an electronic landscape. Mezzo Sarah Castle joins the Radio Chamber Philharmonic conducted by Micha Hamel. Performances are planned in future seasons by the NDR Orchestra Hamburg and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France with original soloist Christianne Stotijn.

> Further information on Work: After Life

Photo: Marco Borggreve

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