The Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie or Koninklijke Muntschouwburg in Brussels, Belgium’s leading opera house, has won a prestigious prize. During the International Opera Awards ceremony at The Savoy Theatre in London on 26th April the opera company received the World Premiere award for the opera Au Monde by Philippe Boesmans.
The Low Countries
This English-language blog, which is linked to the yearbook, The Low Countries, offers news about language, culture and society in the Low Countries for a broad foreign public.
One could roam the collections of the National Gallery in London and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam endlessly. Comparing the two institutions would be a difficult task. But comparing two recent documentaries on these national museums is easier, finds Stefanie van Gemert. She concludes that Frederick Wiseman’s film about the National Gallery does not stand a chance against Oeke Hoogendijk’s The New Rijksmuseum.
Flemish theatre director Ivo Van Hove has won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Director and dance theatre company Peeping Tom has won Best New Dance Production.
Out now: the 23rd volume of The Low Countries Yearbook. Find the table of contents here (scroll down). You can order the volume there as well. The theme of this edition is the sea, water in all its forms, turning tides.
Everything is water, claimed Thales of Miletus around 600 BC. Some assert that that statement was the beginning of philosophy. Water is life. All life comes from the water. The land is what is left behind by the sea. The Low Countries, and the Netherlands in particular, know all about that. They have been won from the sea. But that victory is never definitive.
In this book we take a closer look at water in all its forms, and at that specific sea of ours. You can travel the length of the Belgian coast by tram, from De Panne to Knokke. You can sail from Vlissingen to Texel. We wonder whether the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp could coordinate their activities, but perhaps, as far as China is concerned, Zeebruges, Ghent-Terneuzen and Vlissingen are just hubs of one and the same megaport offering access to Europe. There is a portfolio of pictures, too, showing what people do on the wide sandy beaches of the Low Countries in their summer hours of idleness. The great pirates of the past are also honoured. Today, Somali pirates raise the problem of the law(lessness) of the sea. Today we still need an international law of the sea, especially where pollution and overfishing are concerned. With regard to the latter, however, what food can we still obtain from our North Sea? And finally, there’s no sea without seascapes and poems, of course, a flood of words to conjure up the roar of the surf, the eternal lapping of the waves.
And the tides? They keep on turning.
Things are going well for Antwerp artist Jan Vanriet (b. 1948). The painter’s recent exhibition in Moscow was highly praised, and his work is now on show in Brussels (Roberto Polo Gallery, until 19th April 2015), with further exhibitions planned in Warsaw and Birmingham. The British Museum also recently purchased some of his watercolours. Art critic Charlotte Mullins describes the strength of his work as lying in its autobiographical nature while also treating universal themes.
Three years ago, The Low Countries Yearbook published an article on Jan Vanriet.
Sam Garrett’s translation of Tommy Wieringa’s novel These are the Names has received a glowing Guardian review for its ‘sensitivity and ingenuity’. Dit zijn de namen was originally published in The Netherlands by De Bezige Bij in 2012 and won the Libris Prize in 2013. The English translation was published in 2015 by the independent Australian publishing company Scribe.
"How do we get a more white and middle-aged, privileged audience through our doors?" is not a question that keeps many theatre managers busy in the Netherlands. But it may be relevant for the sold-out showof Mijn vader, de expat & Oumi (My Father, the Expat & Oumi) in Theatre Carré, Amsterdam, on 22 February. The audience is young and mostly from a migrant background. Plenty of lipgloss and fancy jumpsuits; many Moroccan mothers and daughters, with and without headscarves. When the light dims, I notice hundreds of iPhones light up, whats-apps and selfies being shared.
De Avonden (‘The Evenings’) by Gerard Reve is to appear next year in an English edition translated by Sam Garrett and published by Pushkin Press. This Dutch literary classic was first published in 1947 by De Bezige Bij. In 2016 it will be ten years since the author’s death.
In 2011, The Low Countries Yearbook published an article on Gerard Reve's English connection. Gerard Reve felt frustrated after his successful debut novel De Avonden. The book sold well but did not produce sufficient income for a decent living. He therefore turned to writing in English. Eventually he realised that his English was not ‘rich' enough. His love for the ‘warm-hearted' English remained.
On 8 February the Beste Buren-fest (‘Best of neighbours’) kicked off in Rotterdam: a celebration of cultural relationships between Flanders and the Netherlands. The yearlong programme will end on Valentine’s Day 2016 – giving the expression ‘love thy neighbour’ a whole new meaning. Stefanie van Gemert picks her three favourites from the events programme.
The Dutch Poetry Week 2015 begins today, on 29 January, and runs until 4 February. This year’s theme ‘Love’ suggests that all passion has some poetry to it. And vice versa. On 22 January Stefanie van Gemert saw and heard passionate poets on tour in Utrecht. In this blog she discusses the two VSB Poetry Prize-nominees present.