Michel van der Aa is a truly multidisciplinary figure in contemporary music. A unique voice, he combines composition with film and stage direction, and script writing. Classical instruments, voices, electronic sound, actors, theatre and video are all seamless extensions of his musical vocabulary.
12 May 2023
Michel van der Aa’s acclaimed chamber opera Blank Out is returning to the city where it had its world premiere in 2016. After touring through 11 countries, the opera will be performed at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ on 28 May. Van der Aa has quite a high profile at the Muziekgebouw at the moment, since two of his later works (‘Shades of Red’ and ‘The Book of Water’) were performed there in November of 2022.
The opera features soprano Miah Persson live on stage, interacting with baritone Roderick Williams and the Netherlands Chamber Choir on 3D film. Its story begins with a woman trying to put together her fragmented memories of the events leading up to some traumatic experiences. She remembers a man, and although the two have apparently experienced the same event, they view their lives from two very different perspectives. He turns out to be her grown son. ‘Blank Out’ centres on a dialogue between them, using the intersecting and reflecting planes of live action and video to explore the human condition. The libretto, also by Van der Aa, is based on the work and life of South African poet Ingrid Jonker. Blank Out uses innovative techniques of interactive 3D film and electronic music to consider memory and the way in which people reconstruct and deal with traumatic life events, while telling a deeply human story.
Last month the opera had its US West Coast premiere at Cal Performances in Berkeley, California. SF Classical Voice headlined its review of the piece as ‘A Masterly Blend of Opera, Film, Technology’ and continued, ’You rarely find a work as brilliantly conceived and executed […] Blank Out is a masterpiece and a work that shows what is possible when technology meets and enhances art.’ The San Francisco Chronicle was equally enthusiastic, called it ‘[a] visceral portrait of grief […] a small tour-de-force of creative invention […]What matters is the shimmery, evocative splendor of van der Aa’s music, and the way it embodies the bonds between the two characters.’
Ticket info: muziekgebouw.nl
London Sinfonietta, cond. Jack Sheen
Samuel West, actor. Ensemble Modern. Timothy West, actor (film), Mary Bevan, soprano (film)
Virtual Reality opera installation. Sjaella.
VR-Days / Immersive Tech Week