Cultural Compass: An in-depth look at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen's new season

Exhibitions, music, architecture, books, festivals… this is Belga English's pick of cultural activities in Flanders and Brussels, published every Sunday.

This week’s edition gives special focus to Opera Ballet Vlaanderen’s (OBV) 2024/2025 season announcement. With a line-up of classics and world premieres, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Artistic director Jan Vandenhouwe has chosen the theme “Hop Hop”. The choice comes from the final words of Alan Berg’s Wozzeck, the opera with which the season will close next year. Following the harrowing, murderous finale, Wozzeck’s son utters these final words as he plays on a wooden horse.

Vandenhouwe thinks audiences can take away two interpretations of this ending, the first being that the child will follow in the footsteps of his now-deceased parents. “Or you can read 'hop hop' as an expression of the idea that the world can also be different. Berg himself described the ending of his opera as 'an appeal to the audience', a call to side with the most vulnerable,” he says.

Wozzeck © OBV
Wozzeck © OBV

In true operatic form, the 24/25 season is bookended by tragedies. Puccini’s operas offer music that even a first-time opera-goer will recognise. His heartbreaking Madama Butterfly kicks the season off with soaring melodies that will enchant audiences in OBV’s fresh new production. Similarly, Bellini's mesmerising composition of Norma is set to draw in lovers of the Bel Canto repertoire. Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, Strauss’s Salome, and Der Freischütz by von Weber round out the standard repertoire offered this season.

For ballet, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet takes centre stage as one of the most popular ballet scores of the 20th century. “In addition to the timeless love story, Prokofiev highlights the political side of the story and particularly expresses the horror and destruction caused by the family feud,” says Vandenhouwe, who hints at the political undertones in this production.

An alternative to the lush music of Romeo and Juliet is Steve Reich’s minimalist approach with the ballet Rain. Instead of music built around melodies, chords and themes, this music is like a landscape, an environment from which waves of sound and movement emerge and disappear. Legendary Belgian designer Dries Van Noten costumes the dancers in Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s production.

Barzakh © OBV
Barzakh © OBV

VONK, a branch of OBV that focuses on art education for children, young people and adults by connecting art and society through research and participation, will offer two premieres with timely subject matter.

Barzakh, an Arabic word that refers to a space between two worlds in which deceased souls must wait in a state of sleep for a final judgment before they can continue their journey, is the inspiration for a new piece about those awaiting trial in pre-trial detention. During workshops in Ghent and Antwerp prisons, Thomas Bellinck wrote an opera based on conversations with those in that state of limbo, giving them a voice.

NOW WE ARE EARTH is a dance opera that searches for connection and symbiosis between the kingdoms of animal, human, plant, fungus and technology. OBV brings together the Berlin-based DANCE ON, a company for dancers over 40, a new city choir and the audience in this new creation.

A range of subscription options are available for the season.


In Brussels this week

The seventh edition of the JEM International Puppet Festival offers 19 shows over four weeks.

On 18 May, Brussels Pride celebrates inclusion with concerts, performances and activist speeches.

From 15-20 May, Ixelles, Etterbeck and Saint-Gilles will host more than 100 artists from around the world in the poetry fiEstval maelstrÖm.

Additional cultural coverage from Belga this past week includes: Kunstenfestivaldesarts kicks off at Halles de Schaerbeek and Forgotten relief 'The Dance' transferred to Jewish Museum in Brussels.

​​Ongoing events

The Turn of the Screw, La Monnaie​
Knights of the Golden Fleece​

Afrika Film Festival ​
Jean-Michel Folon, A Journey in Brussels​​​​​
​​Jef Verheyen: Window on Infinity KMSKA​​​​
Paul Harbutt, Museum De Reede​​​​
Rodin: A Modern Renaissance




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