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Music Text

Libretto by Michel van der Aa after Hirokazu Kore-Eda (E)


0.1.1.bcl.0- org(=hpd)-strings(; electronic soundtrack; video projections

Abbreviations (PDF)



This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Amsterdam
Michel van der Aa, director
Conductor: Otto Tausk
Company: Netherlands Opera / Asko Ensemble

World premiere of version
Muziektheater, Amsterdam
Michel van der Aa, director
Conductor: Otto Tausk
Company: Asko/Schönberg Ensemble / Netherlands Opera


Mr WALTER Baritone
AIDEN Baritone
SARAH Soprano
ILANA Mezzo-Soprano
CHIEF Soprano
Time and Place

A way station between Heaven and Earth


Those who have just died may choose a favourite memory to take with them to heaven. Those who have preceded them have a week’s time to help them in their choice. Aidan, a young man, is chosen to assist the 70 year old Mr. Walter; a task that he finds extremely difficult. Mr. Walter watches videotapes of his life and can only see his failures. Mr. Walter’s young wife Kira appears on the screen and Aidan becomes obsessed with her. It becomes clear that Aidan is actually 72, but has kept the appearance of a 22 year old. The camera team assembles to begin filming. Aidan’s assistant Sarah is jealous of Aidan’s interest in Kira, for she and Aidan have a relationship. Recordings are made of the lives of the dead. We understand that those who work at this ‘transit stop’ are there because they have not yet been able to choose any such ‘defining moment’ from their own lives. The newly dead watch the film recordings and choose their defining moment, after which they proceed onwards to heaven. Aidan understands that his sight of Kira was his defining moment. He chooses to leave Sarah behind and to proceed to heaven. When Aidan actually sees the film crew at work, he changes his mind; this is his defining moment, not the vision of Kira. Sarah will therefore be a part of his defining moment and he will never forget her. Crushed, she remains behind. The following day another group of the newly dead arrive and Sarah takes Aidan’s place.
Netherlands Opera

Repertoire Note

What was the most defining moment in your life? This is the question that stands at the heart of Michel van der Aa’s opera. Taking the film of the same name by Hirokazu Kore-Eda as its basis, the opera introduces us to people who are taken directly from their earthly existence into heaven. They may experience their most important memory once more in the form of a film and then take it with them into eternity. A complex structure results from a combination of live action, film, live music and electronic sounds, which van der Aa builds further onto his successful one act opera One – itself awarded the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize in 2004. Extremely diverse time-periods are reflected in the music and in the plot, although the work nevertheless preserves its clarity and an unequivocality that flows ceaselessly from its humanistic base.

Press Quotes

"Michel van der Aa is the hottest property in Dutch music at the moment... Van der Aa's piece combines the imaginary with the real, intercutting the fictional operatic action with documentary video interviews in which a variety of people are asked to remember the defining moments in their lives... But it's the meshing of that plot with the documentary elements that proves so teasingly effective, for as the 100-minute piece goes on, the boundary between the two blurs until the four interviewees are seen on video encountering the operatic characters, so that their touching stories seem to infuse the fantasy with something much more directly emotional. It's a strange effect, supported and sustained by van der Aa's ensemble writing, which is dominated by richly detailed string textures and enriched by electronic transformations."
The Guardian





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