Michel van der Aa's Sunken Garden receives US premiere at Dallas Opera
Michel van der Aa's film-opera Sunken Garden receives its US premiere this month in four performances at Dallas Opera from 9 March 2018. Conducted by Nicole Paiement, Sunken Garden stars van der Aa's regular collaborators Roderick Williams and Miah Persson as well as Katherine Manley.
Written with a libretto by British novelist David Mitchell (author of Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks), Sunken Garden dives into a surreal world of crime and mystery that straddles two alternate realities. The opera features van der Aa’s signature combination of live action and video projections using 3D imagery.
The 2017/18 season has featured major US performances of Van der Aa’s works, with Blank Out completing a sell-out run at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in September 2017. The Wall Street Journal described the opera as “emotionally intense … disturbing and unforgettable.” Another of his works receives its US premiere this month when Janine Jansen and the Philhadelphia Orchestra premiere his Violin Concerto, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin on 8 March.
There are further performances of Sunken Garden in Dallas on 9 and 10 March.
Intermusica's summer in reviews
2017 marked another highly successful summer for Intermusica's artists, who gave critically acclaimed performances at festivals all over Europe. Read a small selection of reviews below.
Brett Dean's Hamlet received its world premiere at Glyndebourne in June and was greeted with universal acclaim. The Sunday Times called it "the operatic event of the year", while in a five star review the Times wrote that “Dean’s skill at creating a supercharged orchestral subtext to each scene is matched by his immense theatricality. Quite apart from his unerring pacing of the story, he also creates at least a dozen moments where sheer sonority alone sends shivers up the spine… The overall impression is of a richly imaginative composer at the top of his game.”
Lise Davidsen made a critically acclaimed UK operatic debut in the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos at Glyndebourne Festival Opera in June. Described as possessing "one of the greatest voices I have ever head" by the Observer, Davidsen's debut was described as "one of those 'I was there' moments" by the Times.
Joshua Weilerstein made an "auspicious" debut at the Proms on 19 July, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and his sister Alisa Weilerstein in a programme of Rebel, Berlioz and Pascal Dusapin. Classical Source praised his "admirably prepared and presented" Symphonie fantastique.
Nicholas Collon and his Aurora Orchestra returned to the Proms to perform another symphony from memory on 22 July. This time, they performed Beethoven Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica’, preceded by Strauss Metamorphosen. The Times called it “gripping stuff… an astonishing feat of concentration. With Nicholas Collon favouring speeds ranging from zippy to hair-raising, there was virtuosity all around the band too…an impassioned account of Strauss’s desolate but gorgeous Metamorphosen.”
The Pavel Haas Quartet made a stellar return to the Verbier Festival on 22 July, with Bachtrack praising the quartet for their "old-fashioned virtues of watchfulness, aural alertness and intense concentration... From the micro-perfection of its opening chord to an ethereally feathered final note, this was an Allegro con brio of unfolding joys."
Michel van der Aa was the Composer in Residence at this year's Lucerne Festival, with his works performed throughout the festival. The Luzerner Zeitung praised his "easy handling of current technological possiblities", while the Neue Zurcher Zeitung wrote that his "music theatre of beguiling opulence... might offer a view of the future of opera".
Mark Wigglesworth was joined by pianist Stephen Hough and the BBC Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall on 29 July to perform Brahms Piano Concerto No.1, David Sawyer The Greatest Happiness on Earth and Haydn Symphony No.99. The Sunday Times claimed that Wigglesworth demonstrated "the most authoritative conducting, instantly masterly, I’ve witnessed so far at these Proms, Bernard Haitink’s appearance apart. And Wigglesworth seems close to Haitink’s level... One knew all would be right about this account because Wigglesworth’s intensity was unanswerable.”
Sir John Eliot Gardiner had a busy summer, performing twice at the Proms as well as continuing the Monteverdi Trilogy tour at the Salzburg, Edinburgh and Berlin festivals. His Proms performance of Berlioz La damnation de Faust with the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique was described as "thrilling" by the Observer in a five star review, while the Salzburger Nachrichten praised the Monteverdi Trilogy performances at the Salzburg Festival: "The harmony and the symbiotic relationship of the performers and their conductor has reached a degree of perfection, which shows style, form awareness and playful freedom."
John Wilson gave two performances at the BBC Proms this year, with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and his John Wilson Orchestra. This year, Wilson led the JWO in two critically acclaimed performances of Rogers & Hammerstein Oklahoma! on 11 August: "no conductor appreciates the importance of an orchestration’s inner voices like Wilson, or is more adept at caressing a countermelody without letting it get in the way." (Spectator)
Andreas Haefliger returned to the Edinburgh International Festival this year, giving an "inspiringly commanding" solo recital in August: "Haefliger the thinker is also the pianist who held this audience enthralled until they leapt to their feet at the end, cheering." (Herald Scotland)
Also in Edinburgh, Richard Egarr led Iestyn Davies and the Academy of Ancient Music in two performances of Bach and Telemann. The Scotsman praised the performances, which were "delivered with a style and panache that lifted the notes clean off the page with their precisely pointed rhythms."
Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Beyond the Score® was presented at the Proms on 23 August in “an excellent evening of innovation” (Bachtrack), with a a multi-media exploration of the symphony directed by Beyond the Score founder Gerard McBurney presented alongside a performance of Dvorák Symphony No.9 ‘From the New World’ from the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder.
Leonidas Kavakos reunited with Riccardo Chailly on 25 August, as Intermusica brought the conductor and his Filarmonica della Scala to the Proms to perform Brahms and Respighi. Kavakos performed the Brahms Violin Concerto, a performance which was praised for the "the way he made the music breathe and sing in lyrical, expansive paragraphs while remaining continuously alert both to subtleties of meaning and absolute directness of expression." (Guardian)
Kirill Gerstein continued his partnership with Semyon Bychkov on 31 August, joining the conductor and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to perform Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.1:
"[Gerstein] delivered the slow movement with improvisatory freedom and dazzled with crystalline virtuosity in the finale." (Daily Telegraph)
Michel van der Aa: Composer in Residence at the Lucerne Festival
Michel van der Aa is Composer in Residence at the 2017 Lucerne Summer Festival, which opens on 11 August 2017. The residency features performances of several of his works, including the Swiss premiere of his latest work, the chamber opera Blank Out (2016), with soprano Miah Persson on 13 August.
Taking the life and work of the South African poet Ingrid Jonker as its basis, Blank Out tells the story of a son coming to terms with the drowning of his mother at a young age. A sensitive and innovatively constructed meditation on memory and loss, the opera uses 3D film, interactive projections, and live and electronic music to consider how people reconstruct and deal with traumatic life events. Lucerne Festival are co-commissioners of the production with Dutch National Opera and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
Van der Aa's other works performed at the festival are The Book of Disquiet, Up-close and clarinet concerto Hysteresis, programmed as part of the festival’s 2017 theme ‘Identity’.
This season Van der Aa was also the featured composer at Helsinki’s Musica Nova Festival in February 2017, which included three performances of Blank Out, as well as Spaces of Blank, performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Hysteresis performed by Kari Kriikku.
Michel van der Aa's Blank Out at Kunstfestspiele in Hannover
Michel van der Aa’s Blank Out, a chamber opera for soprano and 3D film, receives its German premiere on 13 May 2017 at the Orangerie Herrenhausen, Hannover as part of KunstFestSpiele.
Soprano Katherine Manley will perform live, accompanied on film by baritone Roderick Williams and on the work’s electronic soundtrack by the Nederlands Kamerkoor.
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. Blank Out uses the intersection of live action and 3D video to explore the nature of memory and the effects of trauma. Michel van der Aa will give two post-performance talks about Blank Out and his other works.
The performances in Hannover follow a highly successful sold-out world premiere run at the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam (sung by Miah Persson), Italian premiere as part of Teatro dell’opera di Roma’s Fast Forward Festival and performances in Beijing as part of the Beijing Music Festival.
Blank Out is a co-commission of Dutch National Opera with the Lucerne Festival and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
US Premiere of Michel van Der Aa’s Sunken Garden announced for March 2018
The Dallas Opera will present the US premiere of Michel van der Aa’s Sunken Garden, with four performances in March 2018 at the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, directed by the composer himself and performed by Roderick Williams, Katherine Manley and Miah Persson.
Keith Cerny (CEO of Dallas Opera) said “I first experienced Sunken Garden in Lyon, France, in the spring of 2015 and found it a uniquely rewarding theatrical experience… I found myself captivated by Michel van der Aa’s extraordinary musical and visual vocabulary… Frankly, I couldn’t wait to bring it to the US”
Described as an “occult mystery film opera” which combines two and three dimensional projections with live singers, Sunken Garden was originally a co-production of English National Opera, Toronto’s Luminato Festival, Opéra de Lyon, Holland Festival and London’s Barbican Centre. The libretto is by the acclaimed British novelist David Mitchell.
This season, van der Aa’s 3D opera Blank Out received its Asian Premiere at Beijing Music Festival and will receive further performances at Musica Nova Festival in Helsinki as well as its German premiere in spring 2017. Van der Aa has been announced as the featured composer at the Lucerne Summer Music Festival, which will include the Swiss premieres of Blank Out, Up-close, The Book of Disquiet and Hysteresis.
Read the full press release, announced on 17 November, on Broadway World.