Michel van der Aa’s latest opera, Sunken Garden, made a splash on its premiere run at London’s Barbican Theatre. As the first opera to use 3D video it was sure to receive a lot of advance publicity. But the performances themselves attracted international media attention, and polarised opinion.
Although some in the British press were critical of the work, writers for other outlets responded favourably. Anne Ozorio of Opera Today described it as ‘A Gesamtkunstwerk for the age of technology’, and Steve Smith of the New York Times called it ‘A provocative combination of live performance and cinema … Unquestionably a bold, rewarding venture’. Writing on his Slipped Disc blog, Norman Lebrecht described it as ‘the first genuine 21st-century opera … not so much an opera as a projection of what opera ought to be’.
From US, German, Dutch and English blogs, to their newspaper counterparts it was certainly the most discussed premiere that ENO have staged for a long time. The seven performances at the Barbican were nearly full, and attracted a young audience, including many who were seeing an opera for the first time.
Sunken Garden now moves to a sold-out run at the Holland Festival this June, the Toronto Luminato Festival in June 2014 and Opera de Lyon in Spring 2015.
The North Rhine-Westphalia Arts Foundation has announced that the Mauricio Kagel Music Prize for 2013 will be awarded, by unanimous vote, to Michel van der Aa. The award will be presented on 28 April during the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik.
The Mauricio Kagel Music Prize is given to internationally renowned musicians whose work, like Kagel’s own, experiments with interdisciplinary concepts and techniques. It was established in 2011 and is awarded every two years; its first recipient was the French-Greek composer Georges Aperghis. Van der Aa’s own combination of visuals, theatre and music may be seen and heard in his forthcoming opera Sunken Garden, which will have its premiere in London on 12 April.
The prize is worth a total of €50,000, of which €20,000 is to be used to fund a new project for the North Rhine-Westphalia region. It is the second major international prize to have been won by Van der Aa in just a few months, following his receipt of the University of Louisville’s Grawemeyer Award for Up-Close in November.
Dutch composer Michel van der Aa has won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his multimedia work Up-Close, which offers a unique blend of cello concerto with film. The Grawemeyer Award, granted annually by the University of Louisville, is the world’s most prestigious composition prize, worth $100,000 (EUR78,000). Van der Aa’s Up-Close, premiered in 2011, was selected from a wide international field of entries, and the Grawemeyer’s prize announcement describes how “the 30-minute work is a highly innovative fusion of musical and visual art. It’s a virtuoso concerto but also a fascinating multimedia experience that defies simple classification. It really creates its own genre.”
Michel van der Aa writes of his reaction on winning the award:
“It is a huge honour to win the 2013 Grawemeyer Award. I am touched to receive such a significant acknowledgement of my work, and feel humbled to be listed alongside so many previous recipients that I greatly admire. I’d like to say thanks from the bottom of my heart to Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Candida Thompson and Vakil Eelman, who were essential for the birth of this piece. I especially want to thank Sol Gabetta, the ultimate protagonist; her passion, virtuosity, and openness were a true source of inspiration.”
We are pleased to announce details of Michel van der Aa’s new opera, Sunken Garden.
A truly international endeavour, Sunken Garden will be a five-way co-production between English National Opera, Toronto Luminato Festival, Opera de Lyon, Holland Festival and London’s Barbican Centre.
The opera is the first collaboration between the composer and stage and film director Van der Aa, and the celebrated English novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas).
After One (2002), The Book of Disquiet (2008) and the acclaimed opera After Life (2005–2006), Sunken Garden is Van der Aa’s fourth work for music theatre. Like its predecessors it employs a distinctive combination of live action and video projections to tell its story, and for the first time includes 3D film.
Mitchell’s libretto tells an “occult mystery” story involving a software engineer, a glamorous young socialite, a neurotic film-maker and a gullible patroness of the arts. Each shares a dream of a “walled garden” between life and death in which there is no guilt or grief. Might this place be real? And what is the cost of cheating mortality?
Sunken Garden will be given its world premiere by English National Opera on 12 April 2013 at the Barbican Theatre. It will be sung by Roderick Williams (baritone), Katherine Manley (soprano), Claron McFadden (soprano), Kate Miller-Heidke (mezzo soprano) and Jonathan McGovern (baritone). The performances in the UK and the Netherlands will be conducted by André de Ridder.
After seven performances in London, the opera will tour through 2013, 2014 and 2015, with performances at the Holland Festival (3-9 June 2013), Toronto Luminato Festival (June 2014) and Opera de Lyon (February 2015).
Michel van der Aa’s concerto for cello, string ensemble and film, Up-Close, will feature in two composer portrait concerts taking place in the Netherlands this month. These will be the first performances of this widely acclaimed work since its premiere tour of six of Europe’s leading concert halls in 2011.
The first of the two concerts will be on 8th November at the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Amsterdam, while the second takes place three days later as part of the ‘s-Hertogenbosch November Music Festival.
Both concerts set Up-Close alongside three other works in which string predominate: Imprint for Baroque orchestra (2005), Memo, for solo violin and tape (2003), and Oog for solo cello and soudtrack (1995) – one of the most popular of all Van der Aa’s works.
The Amsterdam Sinfonietta, led by its artistic director Candida Thompson, will perform alongside the soloists Jacobien Rozemond (violin), Örs Köszeghy (cello) and, for the first time, Kaori Yamagami as the solo cellist in Up-Close.