Earlier this month, Dutch composer Michel van der Aa (b. 1970) directed the premiere of his new opera, After Life, on a libretto adapted from the film of Hirokazu Kore-Eda, at De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam. Van der Aa also wrote and directed the video and sound pieces that are integrated into the live performance. Here is a brief summary of the plot from the DNO Web site:
Those who have died are required to choose a favorite memory to take with them into eternity as they arrive at an intermediary point; they may only proceed on their path to heaven once they have named their most defining moment. They are allowed one week in which to make their choice, during which time they are helped by others who have predeceased them but who themselves have not been able to make their choice and so therefore must remain at the intermediary point.There were a few reviews, beginning with Andrew Clements (After Life, June 8) in The Guardian:
Like the movie, 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. The opera's eight protagonists are in limbo, poised between life and death and confronting that same question, selecting the one memory from their past lives to take with them into eternity. Those that cannot choose remain caught between the two worlds until they make a decision, and it's the intertwined fates of two characters, one newly arrived, the other marooned there for 50 years but both involved with the same woman, that provides the main narrative thread.Van der Aa has a press roundup of his own at his Web site, excerpts all translated into English from Dutch and other languages. I wish I could find more about the score. Anyone?
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, though the vocal writing (to an English text) is not always equally effective.