Michel van der Aa: reviews of Book of Disquiet in Linz
Michel van der Aa’s new music theatre work, The Book of Disquiet, was the first staging in Linz’s Cultural Capital of Europe celebrations in January. Following on from his opera After Life, which enjoyed a sell-out run at the Holland Festival in 2006, van der Aa again provides a cutting-edge integration of music, live action and video, here built from the fragmentary texts of Fernando Pessoa. The Portuguese poet often cast himself in a series of distinct characters, or ‘heteronyms’, prompting van der Aa to portray multiple personalities on video and soundtrack, surrounding the central figure of actor Klaus Maria Brandauer on stage, with an ensemble from the Bruckner Orchestra conducted by Dennis Russell Davies in the pit.
Read an interview with Michel van der Aa about The Book of Disquiet.
“Van der Aa is both composer and librettist, film-maker and producer and, as in his previous works, the imagery is enhanced by the music and vice versa. In Book of Disquiet, which brings together the two titans Fernando Pessoa and Klaus Maria Brandauer, van der Aa has set himself a particularly difficult task. His success is due to the subtlety with which he organises all the ingredients. The music reflects the feelings and ideas described: at times melancholy, at times highly formal, but always dramatic...”
“Video screens around the actor offer filmed images of other characters mentioned in the texts: there's a retired major, a street-sweeper and a girl Soares dreams about after seeing her in a lithograph; he calls her Ophelia and she is portrayed on film by the fado singer Ana Moura… Magically, it all coheres: the parade of visuals, beautifully shot under Van der Aa's direction; the musing disconnectedness of Brandauer's utterances, which create the texture of a dream. If it's in the nature of Pessoa's book that there can be no resolution, there is a kind of closure here, a sense of knowing much more about the author and his alter ego than we ever would otherwise.”
“The world premiere of The Book of Disquiet made a profound impression. The composer and director Michel van der Aa wove together text excerpts, film sequences and music into an impressive, symbolically-laden production… Brilliant in its multi-layered symbolism, Marc Warning’s stage set has the effect of a single, great metaphor for the main character’s attitude towards life, at odds with himself. Five circles which push into each other, then again drift apart, recall the planets of a universe, in the midst of which Soares circles around his existence... In van der Aa’s compositions, disquiet becomes music.”
“A true ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ which captivated from beginning to end.”
The Book of Disquiet is available in German, English and Portuguese language versions, and performances are already planned in the Netherlands and Portugal. After Life returns to the stage in Amsterdam in September and will travel to the Opéra de Lyon in March 2010. Van der Aa’s new song cycle for mezzo-soprano, orchestra and soundtrack, Spaces of Blank, is premiered in Amsterdam on 19 March by Christianne Stotijn and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, with further performances planned by the NDR Orchestra and Radio France.
> Further information on Work: The Book of Disquiet
Photo: Premiere of The Book of Disquiet in Linz (Archipicture Tollerian)
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