AMSTERDAM — As a boy soprano in the youth opera firm that his parents ran in their little town, the Dutch composer Michel van der Aa as soon as accompanied his father to the clockmaker who was painting a set for them. What he saw, he recalled recently, was revelatory.
“I will by no means forget,” Mr. van der Aa mentioned, “that he had this fan onto which he had added pieces of crepe paper and put red light beneath it. And he turned on the light and, suddenly, there was a fire. I realized that with these extremely simple indicates, you can do one thing incredibly poetic.”
If his inspiration to turn out to be a theater artist arose from this encounter with stagecraft simplicity, Mr. van der Aa, 47, has created his career embracing the extremely opposite. Even though he has written chamber and orchestral pieces, he has turn into ideal recognized in opera. And to this currently multifaceted art form, he has added higher-tech experiments in streaming video and three-D film and retro components like reel-to-reel tape recordings, resulting in sequences like duets that demand an onstage singer to harmonize with yet another artist, who is inside a recorded movie.
Mr. van der Aa’s most recent opera, “Blank Out,” which stars the soprano Miah Persson (reside onstage) and the baritone Roderick Williams (in a simultaneously projected three-D film, which the audience watches via glasses), will be at the Park Avenue Armory from Thursday to Sept. 27, soon after critically successful runs right here in Amsterdam and in Rome Beijing Helsinki Hannover, Germany and Lucerne, Switzerland.
The opera is loosely based on the life and work of the South African poet Ingrid Jonker (1933-65). Simply because she wrote in Afrikaans, which is related to Dutch, translations of her function have been produced obtainable in the Netherlands prior to they reached other components of the planet, and Mr. van der Aa study them as a young man. The opera’s narrative includes inspiration from Mr. van der Aa’s personal memories, but Jonker’s poems recur throughout, both in their entirety and as fragments.
In the enigmatic operate, which leaves some of its narrative threads undone at the finish, Ms. Persson plays a mother remembering the tragic drowning of her son, whilst Mr. Williams, in the film, is a son remembering the drowning of his mother. Replayed loops of Ms. Persson’s voice join her reside sounds she typically sings collectively with Mr. Williams, although they are divided by time, space and medium. It’s a dark tale told in Mr. van der Aa’s characteristic style, a genre-bending amalgam of pop, electronica and ambient elements, like the scratching sound of cassette tapes.
“A complete generation of listeners have Spotify playlists that move from Bach to Beyoncé, from Radiohead to Ligeti,” he said. “I feel these genre lines don’t exist anymore for a lot of young listeners and also not for me, and it feels really artificial to maintain them in my function. The exact same is accurate with visual culture: We’re surrounded by technologies, and it is in the DNA of our time, so it would be very strange to not use it in my work.”
“Blank Out” is Mr. van der Aa’s second foray into combining 3-D components with opera, soon after a 2013 collaboration with the British novelist David Mitchell, “Sunken Garden,” which some critics located much more satisfying technically than musically. (He has continued to tweak the perform and will present what he calls the “2. version” in March at the Dallas Opera.) The critic Andrew Clemens wrote in The Guardian that “Blank Out” was, by comparison, “far far more understated and effective,” and listed it as one of his leading classical music events of last year.
“The themes he utilizes are timeless, inspired by literature, associative and multilayered,” said Pierre Audi, the impresario who originally commissioned the new perform for Dutch National Opera and is now the Park Avenue Armory’s artistic director. “He wasn’t actually following the path of a standard composer, and the risks he was taking from early on had been worth supporting.”
Indeed, Mr. van der Aa’s path has been uncommon. Ahead of studying composition, he educated as a recording engineer at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, completed a course in film directing at the New York Film Academy and participated in the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. Mr. Audi said that he was specifically taken by Mr. Van der Aa’s capability to bring film into opera.
“The way Michel does it is to use film as part of the composition,” Mr. Audi mentioned, “so that the music is also what you see, and that’s extremely beautiful and unusual. You can’t anticipate composers to also be excellent filmmakers, but Michel has taken the time to develop himself as a filmmaker, and so he can use that tool to compose music which is also for the eye. I believe there’s a lot of prospective for what he’s invented.”
But Mr. van der Aa created clear that the intricacy of the presentation of his operas was not an finish in itself.
“The opera is not about technology,” he mentioned. “It’s about loss, about generations and about these larger life themes. It’s making use of a various vocabulary to express them.”