Opera about deforestation on Kalimantan
The original forest on Kalimantan in Indonesia is disappearing quickly, and this has everything to do with patterns of consumption in Europe. The Indonesian composer Nursalim Yadi Anugerah and the Dutch librettist and director Miranda Lakerveld are making a new opera that takes widespread deforestation as its subject. The work is based on two classical works, one from Eastern and one from Western culture: the Kayan epic Takna’ Lawe’ and Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Both stories are about the importance of honouring nature and its natural resources. By weaving the two storylines together, they connect the Kalimantan Kayan’s rich cultural tradition with Western mythology in Wagner’s interpretation. The result is a stirring musical and theatrical fusion of two cultures that are intertwined with each other in many ways.
The two sources of inspiration for Ine Aya’, the new opera from Indonesian composer Nursalim Yadi Anugerah and the Dutch librettist and director Miranda Lakerveld, share many similarities. The Kayan epic Takna’ Lawe’ and Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen both feature a Tree of Life that runs through the entire world and keeps everything together. This tree is where the Earth goddess lives. In Northern European mythology the tree is called Yggdrasil, where the Kayan call it Kayo’ Aya’. The Earth goddess is named Erda in Northern Europe and Ine Aya’ among the Kayan, while the god named Wotan in Wagner is called Hingaan Jaan by the Kayan. In both works, one day a god comes along to take over the tree’s knowledge and power. But the Earth goddess punishes him and lets the branches and trunk grow and intertwine with him until he is trapped. The tree slowly dies as a result of this battle. Younger generations try to protect the tree from further outside attacks.
Whichever names and myths you use, in the end all people on earth are connected with each other. Whether they like it or not, people are connected throughout the world as a result of the colonial past, or more recently by globalisation and the consumer behaviour that goes with it. All these layers come together in Ine Aya’. By allowing Wotan and Ine Aya’ to meet, the makers reconstruct the way Eastern and Western cultures have influenced each other through war, trade and migration throughout the centuries. Global cultural exchange took place early on, and it is entirely possible that the myths of the Kayan and its European counterparts influenced each other. Wotan’s arrival on Kalimantan can also be read as relating to the arrival of the first Dutch colonists in 19th century Indonesia. After all, the story about the Tree of Life refers to the deforestation on Kalimantan, where currently fifty percent of the original forest has been cut down. Western consumption patterns are a major factor in this disastrous deforestation.
For years, Miranda Lakerveld’s World Opera Lab has made intercultural opera pieces in which cultural differences are bridged and social themes are connected with opera masterpieces. Turan Dokht (Holland Festival 2019) was an ‘intercultural rewriting’ of Puccini’s opera Turandot (1924) in collaboration with the Iranian composer Aftab Darvishi. In 2017, Lakerveld made the musical theatre ritual Temple of Time together with the Indonesian-Dutch composer Sinta Wullur for the Holland Festival Proms.
The young Indonesian composer Nursalim Yadi Anugerah and his Balaan Tumaan Ensemble have been doing extensive research of the Kayan’s musical traditions and the Takna’ Lawe’ for years. He previously made the opera HNNUNG, based on the Takna’ Lawe’. He wrote the music for the project REWILD, about deforestation in Kalimantan, and he took care of part of the music for The Planet - A Lament by Garin Nugroho, which can be seen at the Holland Festival as well this year.
Lakerveld and Anugerah met in Indonesia and decided to join forces. Lakerveld and Yadi Anugerah did their research despite difficult circumstances caused by the Corona pandemic and the accompanying measures. Yadi Anugerha immersed himself in the Ring, while Lakerveld studied the epics of the Kayan. Together, they looked for similarities in the myths and music. On that basis, they developed a script in which each culture would come into its own equally.
Ine Aya’ has roots in the immaterial heritage of Kalimantan. The ensemble plays traditional Kayan instruments like the sape, an instrument somewhat like a lute, and the kaldi, a mouth-organ, as well as Western instruments. Wagner’s leitmotifs will be played on traditional Northern European instruments and mixed with classical European vocals. Ine Aya’ will be performed both in Indonesia and the Netherlands. It is the first time that the words from the Takna’ Lawe’ areheard in Europe.
In his work, the composer Nursalim Yadi Anugerah (1991, Pontianak) takes inspiration from the cosmology, sonology and culture of indigenous people from West Kalimantan (Borneo). He is a composer and multi-instrumentalist from the city of Pontianak and is known for his original way of approaching instrumentation and composition. As an ethno-musicologist, he worked extensively with traditional musicians from Kalimantan with the goal of preserving their music and re-interpreting it through new compositions. For three years, he led the Balaan Tumaan Ensemble, an ensemble from Pontianak and research institute for traditional music from Kalimantan. In 2017, he received a grant from the Kelola Foundation Indonesia for his chamber opera work. In March 2018, he was awarded a commission for a new composition from orkest de ereprijs during the International Young Composers Meeting in Apeldoorn. He made the opera HNNUNG, based on the Takna’ Lawe’, and wrote the music for the project REWILD, about deforestation in Kalimantan. He also composed part of the music for The Planet - A Lament by Garin Nugroho, which can be seen at the Holland Festival as well this year.
The director and librettist Miranda Lakerveld (Utrecht, 1976) sets the stage for opera and classical music in which connecting cultures, religions and artistic disciplines is the guiding principle. For this, she started World Opera Lab. Some major projects in recent years include Orfeo in India (adapted from Monteverdi) in Ahmedabad with European and Indian musicians and singers, Erda, an opera installation with music by Calliope Tsoupaki, De thuiskomst van Odysseus in Amsterdam West, a series of opera programs about conflicts in the Middle East in collaboration with De Balie with music from Monteverdi and traditional music from Morocco and Turkey, Arïanna and a new multi-lingual adaptation of the Matheus Passion, Passie van nu.
She worked on Het innerlijke landschap, a project with film and opera about traditional Sichuan opera, together with the documentary maker Frank Scheffer. It was featured at the Holland Festival in 2015. In 2017, she made Temple of Time together with the composer Sinta Wullur for the Holland Festival as well. In 2019, the festival featured the opera Turan Dokht, an ‘intercultural rewriting’ of Puccini’s Turandot, which she worked on together with the Iranian composer Aftab Darvishi.
World Opera Lab, founded by Miranda Lakerveld, makes intercultural opera pieces, does research and gives workshops. The pieces transcend cultural differences and take dialogue between various disciplines as their guiding principle. Social themes are poetically explored in a mix of music and dance from different cultures. The work of World Opera Lab is inspired by research into traditional musical theatre practices from Tibet, Japan, Guatemala, India and Iran. World Opera Lab has made various productions in the Netherlands (including for the Holland Festival) and abroad, such as last year’s Arïanna, a reconstruction of the lost opera by Monteverdi of the same name, in which Monteverdi’s music was combined with both traditional music from throughout the world and newly composed works.
- Nursalim Yadi Anugerah
- Miranda Lakerveld
- Miranda Lakerveld & Nursalim Yadi Anugerah
- Bernadeta Astari (sopraan), Rolfe Dauz (bariton), Frisna Virginia (sopraan)
- Balaan Tumaan
- Dominikus Uyub (sape, zang, dans)
- Siavash Naghshbandi
- Bart van den Heuvel
- World Opera Lab
- with support of
- Fonds Podiumkunsten, Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst, Gieskes Strijbis, Dutch Culture
- This performance was made possible with support by