Cultural Compass: Ghost story at the opera, stand-up comedy, international jazz and more

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

Opera and horror are not always synonymous, but with Benjamin Britten’s adaptation of The Turn of the Screw, audiences at La Monnaie will experience the thrill of this terrifying story on stage. Based on Henry James’ ghost story set in an old English manor, The Turn of the Screw follows the story of a governess who finds herself trying to protect the children in her charge while becoming entangled with the horrific secrets of the house. In this highly stylised and dark production, the audience is at the centre of this psychological, twisted thriller. The opera runs from 2 until 14 May.


From 2 May until 24 June, stand-up comedians from the UK, the US, Australia and India will perform at various theatres in Flanders and Brussels. Bill Bailey will kick off the lineup at the Arenberg in Antwerp with his set Thoughtifier. The comic combines humour with music, calling on his keyboard and synthesiser to accompany his jokes. Australian duo The Umbilical Brothers celebrate the 15th anniversary of their award-winning show Speedmouse. This powerhouse comedic performance showcases the brothers’ storytelling through physical comedy.

In November 2011, UNESCO officially designated 30 April as International Jazz Day to highlight jazz and its role in uniting people. Each year on this date, Brussels joins the celebration with its tribute to jazz and its ability to promote peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity and respect for human rights. This year, Théâtre Marni hosts a double bill featuring contemporary jazz group NOVA and Wajdi Riahi Trio’s contemporary jazz with shades of Eastern influence.

Led by Belgian bassist Félix Zurstrassen, NOVA brings together a group of musicians from Brazil, the Netherlands and the UK whose style is “at the crossroads of modern and contemporary jazz … innovative music anchored with nuance and emotion in the present moment.” Wajdi Riahi Trio has been noted for its sensual approach to the genre. “With them, you don’t know anymore on which side of the Atlantic you stand, which Northern European or Middle Eastern shore you’ve washed up on,” says the organisation Les Lundis d’Hortense.


Finally, this week is the last chance to catch the seventh edition of Lunalia, the spring festival of Flanders in Mechelen. Until 5 May, visitors can take advantage of an exciting programme of music featuring artists such as Pavel Haas Quartet, Simona Saturova, Musica Gloria, Voces8, Zefiro Torna, Kris Defoort, Anima Eterna and many others.

In the context of the Belgian presidency of the EU, Zefiro Torna initiates the European participatory project Unity in Diversity. The ensemble invites three singers and three lute players with diverse cultural and musical backgrounds to find a common musical language through intercultural dialogue and experimentation.

Ongoing events

Knights of the Golden Fleece
Afrika Film Festival ​
Jean-Michel Folon, A Journey in Brussels
​​​​Ombra at Opera Ballet Vlaanderen​​
Jef Verheyen: Window on Infinity KMSKA​​
Paul Harbutt, Museum De Reede​​
Rodin: A Modern Renaissance



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