Skip to main content
Toggle menu

Michel van der Aa

Michel van der Aa's new work for ensemble will premiere as part of the London Sinfonietta's 2020/21 concert season.

Michel van der Aa

The London Sinfonietta is pleased to be commissioning a new ensemble work by Michel van der Aa: a study piece for the composer’s upcoming opera Upload, exploring identity against the backdrop of present-day and near-future technologies. The new virtuosic and high energy piece for 12 musicians plays with the idea of the 'digital copy’ – confronting the ensemble with pre-recorded material, juxtaposing the rigidness of a soundtrack with the ‘humanity' of performers

More about Michel van der Aa

Michel van der Aa, winner of the 2015 Johannes Vermeer Award and 2013 Grawemeyer award, is one of today’s most sought-after composers and stage directors. A pioneer in the realms of new music and technology, his staged works – incorporating film and sampled soundtrack – are a seamless hybrid of musical theatre and multimedia.

Van der Aa’s imaginative music theatre works Sunken Garden (2011-12), The Book of Disquiet (2008), After Life (2005/06) and One (2002) have received critical and public acclaim internationally. Staging, film and music are interwoven into a collage of transparent layers, resulting in works that are part-documentary, part-philosophy. His repertoire also includes concert works and chamber music for small ensemble, soloists and soundtrack and he collaborated with Sol Gabetta on the cross-media cello concerto Up-close (2010). A hugely successful project, the work has been performed in many cities including Berlin, London, Brussels and Hamburg and has received excellent reviews. His 3D film opera, Sunken Garden (2013), an ‘occultmystery film-opera’, was created in partnership with the English novelist David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas. Co-commissioned by English National Opera, Opera de Lyon, Toronto Luminato Festival and Holland Festival, the work received its world premiere by ENO at the Barbican, London in April 2013.

Netherlands-born, van der Aa maintains strong roots in his home country including close ties with the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, and the Holland Festival. The Concertgebouw Orchestra announced a long term partnership with van der Aa. The new position of ‘House Composer’ led to the creation of several major works including a new violin concerto written for Janine Jansen, which was premiered in autumn 2014 by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

Winner of numerous awards for his innovative work, van der Aa is a regular guest of the world’s most prestigious festivals and concert halls including London’s Barbican Centre, Opera de Lyon, Berliner Festspiele, Venice Biennale, Huddersfield Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Festival and Autumn in Warsaw. His compositions have been performed at the highest international level: by the ASKO|Schoenberg, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg, musikFabrik, Tokyo Sinfonietta, Philharmonia Orchestra and Helsinki Avanti Ensemble. In 2010, van der Aa launched Disquiet Media, an independent multimedia label for his own work.

In 2015-16, Van der Aa created an interactive digital song cycle, The Book of Sand, a co-commission of the Holland Festival, Sydney Festival, Google Arts Institute, and the BBC’s The Space, that was released as a website and smartphone app at the end of May 2015. His music theatre work, The Book of Disquiet, had its Englishlanguage premiere with actor Samuel West as part of Peak Performances, Montclair, New Jersey, and presented by London Sinfonietta at the Coronet Theatre, London.

Van der Aa’s latest music theatre work, Blank Out, received its world premiere in March 2016, presented in Dutch National Opera’s Opera Forward Festival. A 3D chamber opera for solo soprano onstage, baritone Roderick Williams on film, and Nederlands Kamerkoor and electronic soundtrack, the world premiere was performed by Miah Persson. Blank Out is a co-production of Dutch National Opera with Lucerne Festival and Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, and had performances at Beijing Music Festival, Musica Nova Helsinki, Hannover Festival, and Lucerne Festival in 2016-17.

Michel van der Aa was Composer-in-residence at the 2017 Lucerne Summer Festival. The festival programme included the Swiss premieres of The Book of Disquiet, Up-close, Hysterisis and Blank Out.

Support this commission

Help us to do what we do best. From as little as £100 per year, you can help make new music happen and support the creation of this new work.