A trawl through an old school year book and the realisation of how many contemporaries had ended their own lives underlined for writer Pearse Elliott the truth that suicide is so prevalent it has acquired the force of the inevitable.
Faces Then focuses on the 16th-century, regarded as the golden age of the portrait, when it was the rich, the powerful and the burgeoning bourgeoisie who could afford to have their portraits taken. Faces Now confines itself to the period since 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and, with it, the collapse of ideologies and artistic parameters.
Embracing art’s ability to transcend national divisions, a young pan-European ensemble delivered Tchaikovsky at his most triumphantly Russian, as part of a vivacious and compelling beginning to its new season, known as the Hulencourt Art Project, which runs until May next year.
What exactly is the essence of Belgium? Far harder to pin down than French chic or English sang-froid, the nation’s uneasy mix of Walloon and Flemish, surreal and down-to-earth, all miraculously held together, is perfectly encapsulated by the Atomium – a giant, futuristic structure on the northern edge of Brussels.
Romeo Castellucci at Brussels’ La Monnaie (De Munt in Dutch) opera house takes a real-life sufferer of locked-in syndrome and turns her into the protagonist of Ophee et Eurydice (adapted by Hector Berlioz from Gluck).
Noel Coward wrote of his musical Ace of Clubs that “the idea is to do it as simply as humanly possible”. For the first professional London revival since the original 1950 production, Southwark’s Union Theatre draws on its decade of experience of producing loveable, low-budget musicals and takes Coward at his word.
One of the more unlikely joys of Brussels life is the rotating EU presidency. Every six months, a different member of the 28-strong European Union takes on the task of presiding over policy-making. For the citizens of Brussels, it’s a chance for a cultural mini break without the expense and inconvenience of braving the airport.
In Brussels, art nouveau found its most complete expression in the architecture of Victor Horta. Now the Brussels’ Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts has devoted a huge new “Fin-de-Siecle” section, a museum in itself, to the artistic context in which he thrived.
Now fully restored, with its chequered Flemish floors, semi-circular gallery and portico inspired by a Roman triumphal arch, the Rubenshuis, Ruben’s home in Antwerp, is one of the most popular attractions in a vibrant city, just under an hour’s train journey from Brussels.