Friday, 14 May 2010

Michel van der Aa - Barbican

Big, big buzz about Michel van der Aa After Life at the Barbican on Saturday 15th May. For the full review  of this and also the new Up-Close please follow label "Van der Aa" on right. This is cutting edge, a major critical success when it opened in the Netherlands in June 2006.  The Holland Festival produces seriously interesting things. Van der Aa is multimedia king, combining music, electronics, film, drama etc to create Total Theatre. He's been closely involved with Louis Andriessen, about whom there's a lot on this site (follow the labels) Andriessen in his youth pioneered the idea of anti-orchestra, and of music theatre beyond conventional bounds.

"Six characters are about to trade their earthly existence for a place in heaven. They are allowed to choose one moment from their lives to relive in the form of a film to take them to eternity."  Intriguing concept, based (no surprise) on a Japanese art film.

Congratulations to the Barbican for having the courage to bring this to London, but even more congratulations for marketing it in an intelligent, down-to-earth way.  New music isn't necessarily scary. The opera may be state of the art, but that doesn't mean ordinary people can't relate to it.  Indeed, for Van der Aa, what counts is communication, with as many people as possible, not just trendies. . The Barbican's created a special mini-website for After Life where people can speculate on the ideas for themselves. It's a great idea because it makes people think about the basic premise of the opera, and relate it to their lives. The drama isn't just what's on stage, but what happens in the minds and souls of those taking part.  Definitely an experience on many different levels.

I tracked down the Financial Times article from 2006 HERE. "After Life succeeds not so much because of its plot but because of the ingenious way its component parts are assembled."...."This is the Gesammstkunstwerk of the future". Well, I dunno, since many composers and directors aim for the same extension of theatrical experience, but this should be well worth participating in. The Queen of the Netherlands was at the premiere, showing what an open-minded person she may be. I can't imagine Prince Charles letting down his inhibitions in the same way, for the sake of art.

Musically this will be top notch, as most of the team were involved in the Dutch productions. Michel van der Aa brings together The ASKO/Schoenberg Ensemble (wonderful), Claron McFadden, Roderick Williams and others.

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