Cultural Compass: Thrilling new Turandot, summer solstice, contemporary painting and more

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

La Monnaie’s new production of Turandot is in the final week of its run. Giacomo Puccini’s powerful opera is about Princess Turandot who, to avoid marriage, forces suitors to answer three riddles and face death if they do not succeed.

“Turandot’s dates always end with a funeral" reads the production's tagline. Directed by Christophe Coppens and conducted by Ouri Bronchti, this take on Turandot is set in modern-day Hong Kong, exploring themes of power and rebellion within a wealthy family. Highlighting more than just its famous aria, Nessun dorma, this interpretation promises a visually and emotionally compelling experience.

Puccini, who died in Brussels, was unable to come up with a satisfactory finale, and he left the work unfinished at his death in 1924. “My life is torture because I do not see in this opera the beating heart and strength necessary in a work for the theatre if it is to stand the test of time and endure,” he wrote in November 1921.


On 29 June, KAAP presents De Langste Dag in Ostend, transforming the city into a vibrant hub of artistic activity. This event celebrates the week of the summer solstice with a series of performances, installations, and exhibitions spread across the city.

Artists from various disciplines, including music, visual arts and dance, will create site-specific works that engage with the unique urban landscape of Ostend. The event encourages community participation and highlights the intersection of art and the environment, offering a day-long celebration that extends into the evening with captivating performances and interactive experiences.


The Biennale van de Schilderkunst returns next week, with an exploration of contemporary painting from 30 June until 6 October. Spanning multiple historic locations including the Roger Raveel Museum, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens and the Museum van Deinze en de Leiestreek, the biennale features works from various artists that highlight the evolving narrative of painting.

This year’s theme looks at the relationship between visual art and time, examining how contemporary painters interpret and interact with worldly elements. The event invites visitors to experience a diverse array of styles and perspectives, celebrating the dynamic and ever-changing world of painting.

“The biennial is not intended as a showcase of the 'latest and greatest', but rather as a means to engage the visitor in a subjective investigation of painting’s long history," the organisers say. “Along this organically developed route, modern art from the museum’s own collections is put into dialogue with contemporary art.”


Starting on 30 June and running until the end of September, the gates of Marnix de Sainte-Aldegonde Castle open to the public, offering a rare opportunity to explore its grounds and the world’s largest private collection of engravings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The castle and its surroundings along the Old Scheldt resemble a scene straight out of Bruegel’s work, providing a fitting backdrop for the DAUWRAUW exhibition.

Curator Joost Declercq has invited seven contemporary artists to create pieces inspired by Bruegel and the castle’s environment. The number seven symbolises the seven deadly sins and virtues depicted in Bruegel’s engravings and the seven days of the week. This thematic choice adds depth and cohesion to the exhibition.

The featured artists - Francis Upritchard, Mark Manders, Ana Prvacki, Monika Emmanuelle Kazi, Joan Jonas and Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller - contribute a variety of media. Their sculptures, audio and video installations and performances are strategically placed in the most hidden and unique spots around the castle grounds, creating a dialogue between the old master’s works and contemporary interpretations.

Visitors can discover these modern pieces while admiring Bruegel’s etchings inside the castle. DAUWRAUW not only highlights the timeless influence of Bruegel but also celebrates the dynamic intersection of history and contemporary art in a picturesque, historic setting.


The International Opera Academy's Sweet(?)Revenge, in collaboration with Opera Ballet Vlaanderen, presents a compelling exploration of revenge through operatic performance. This staged concert features students from the academy performing arias and ensembles by composers such as Benjamin Britten, Igor Stravinsky, Kurt Weill and Pascal Dusapin. Directed by Darren Ross, the production examines the multifaceted nature of revenge, from its dramatic expressions to its subtle psychological motives. This one-hour show will play on 26 and 28 June at Opera Ghent.

​​Ongoing events

Willy Vanderperre at FOMU​
Come Closer, Middleheim​

Old Paper? Photo Paper from the Gevaert Archive​

​​5,000 cultural objects from the DR Congo, MAS​

​​Josef and Anni Albers​

Jean-Michel Folon, A Journey in Brussels ​​​​
​Jef Verheyen: Window on Infinity KMSKA ​​
​​Rodin: A Modern Renaissance




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