World Cultural Events January 2019


A monthly selection of concerts,
performing arts and exhibitions



 01 / 01 / 19 


Paris, January 10

Mozart’s Don Giovanni may be the most important opera of the 18th century. Even more certain, if possible, it can be considered the most influential during the nineteenth, especially by the supernatural element represented by the stone man (Il Commendatore), confronted with a Don Juan that does not fall into mere demonization. The seducer awakens the most obstinate repulsion and also a strange fascination due to the incontinent longings of life, that will precipitate him to the dark side. The topic has allowed several kinds of scenography, over decades: from futuristic versions, in which erotic compulsion is appreciated to classical versions, in which the gallant element overflows in contrast to its frantic transgression. But a work of this magnitude, so musical and textually rich (wonderful libretto, that of Da Ponte) lends itself to be enjoyed also in a concert version, with no acting. Giovanni Antonini, specialist in ancient music, known for his vibrant readings of Vivaldi, will be in charge of the direction of the Kammerochester Basel, together with the Deutscher Kammerchor. A Feast for the Senses.

Mariss Jansons and Evgeny Kissin

Berlin, January 17-19

The interpretative maturity of the ex-child prodigy of the piano, Evgeny Kissin, can be enjoyed in the large hall of the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the best concerts that during the first month of the year is programmed at the historic auditorium

and for which, strangely enough, tickets are still available. It is becoming hard to access these events (which is why concerts of the architecturally spectacular Ebphilarmonie of Hannover are not recommended here) if it is not by subscription or by buying tickets ahead, with a lot of advance. The piece in which Kissin will be able to show his best skills as an interpreter -clarity in the phrasing, perfect, round sonority and a technical resolution hardly comparable- is the Piano Concerto no. 1 by Franz Liszt, a fiery work, full of virtuoso passages that demand from the interpreter an absolute concentration in the control of volume. Faustian echoes are evident from the beginning, with a kind of threatening fanfare and the furious intervention of the soloist who takes the main role, until the brass intervene again in a much more discreet manner, and that speech is repeated in a whisper, exploring the subtler regions of piano sensitivity. From 0 to 100 in intensity, and again to silence, to address the entire sound spectrum; that of the pathos of romantic psychology, always open to feeling and to his live experience. The visionary reputation of the Hungarian composer -also sensitive to the sense of the show, and to the appreciation of the public of the technical prodigies à la Paganini- also concerns the orchestral treatment, which is of an admirable sumptuousness and strength. The Berlin Philharmonic, always committed with intensity, will endorse its position at the top of the orchestras with the interpretation of a piece as substantial and memorable as Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss, symphonic poem inspired by the series of parodic discourses that Friedrich Nietzsche recomposed, “inspired” by diverse spiritual traditions. The director of the musical event will be one of the most charismatic maestros: Mariss Jansons.

Kazushi Ono

Tokyo, January 10

The head conductor of the Orquestra de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya, Kazushi Ono, performs in his hometown, leading the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra.

Maestro Ono, who admits to having worked in Europe for the last 25 years, is also familiar with the Japanese ensemble, that he will conduct assuming two pieces of enormous complexity: from Anton Bruckner’s Symphony no. 6, one of its characteristic symphonic monuments, and the Concerto for violin by Arnold Schönberg, a visionary and intricate score, which Patricia Kopatchinskaja, one of the most sought-after soloists today, will face with full guarantees.

Olafur Arnalds

San Francisco, January 31

The beautiful Warfield Theater seems an ideal emplacement to host the minimalist proposal of the Icelandic composer and pianist Olafur Arnalds.

. If last month we recommended a mythical hall in the city of Los Angeles, the current we point the direction of an historical theatre, in which the passage of time is experienced together with architectonic beauty. A scenario that suggests stories lived by others and with which it is difficult not to empathize. The music of Arnalds has sounded in architectural forms of all kinds, secular or religious buildings, small venues or large halls, closed or open spaces with a point in common, that they invite an almost cinematic experience of one's own experience. The simplicity of his compositions -which in his last album, Re:member, is accompanied by more instruments and benefits from the use of electronics, with an exquisite taste- has the ability to imprint memories in the soul or recall some of those that one thought they were forgotten.

Das Rheingold

Madrid, January 17 - February 1

Still amazes the tremendous work-capacity of Pablo Heras-Casado, a conductor so much sought after internationally (by the main concert halls, to lead orchestras of centennial history)

and who is now back in Madrid, specifically to perform a great opera at the Teatro Real, no other than the first episode of the Wagnerian tetralogy. Das Rheingold, that will feature a cast of first-rate singers -among which Greer Grimsley, Sarah Connolly and Samuel Youn- and the staging of Robert Carsen (Oper Köln’s production), tells the beginning of a journey in search of power. In the present version, far from mythically reflecting those foundational yearnings, what is shown is an epochal diagnosis. Hardly today's viewer will not feel challenged observing a vision of the world in which natural relationships have been decisively disrupted by man. It is explained, in this sense, that "the composer already had the intuition about the incompatibility between the laws of nature and those of human beings, and anticipated the consequences that would follow". And not only that, the organizers point out that this production "confronts the spectator with a world in a state of siege, irreversibly contaminated, devastated by the avarice of power of the man who, trying to control his environment, has ended up headed to his own destruction". The glorious music of Wagner, highly evocative, works in the depiction of that worrisome scenario, which in effect seems to demand awareness and -why not-the restorative intervention of man. A reflection on the meaning of true wealth, which is not only moralizing. It concerns in a very pragmatic sense the self-preservation of the individual and the future of the species.



 01 / 01 / 19 

Caravage à Rome, amis & ennemis

Paris, until January 28

Caravaggio was a controversial personality in his time, having supporters and detractors, as noted in the title of the present exhibition (Caravage à Rome, amis & ennemis). Undoubtedly, speaking retrospectively, is the place that he occupies in the history of art. A painter with his technical virtuosity and his ability to capture the decisive moment -the most dramatic and significant- of the scene, which reproduces with a fidelity to the original apparently absolute, can hardly found comparison. This kind of hyper-realism

avant la lettre contrasts with the chosen subjects, subjects impregnated -according to the sacred texts, for example- of a supernatural explanation. The incredible of the event is represented as effectively happening, which is evident in the Baroque taste for the dream and the experience of a superior form of reality, elevating the likelihood and the degree of participation in the scene. There are "only" ten paintings gathered at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris, of which 7 -as it is explained in the informative website- they had never been seen on French territory before. Taking into account the small number of “Caravaggios” that are known around the world, it is not unreasonable to consider a Parisian journey to contemplate them (because, in reality, it is difficult to see together that amount). In addition to the religious motifs that he represented during his stay in Rome among which, an Ecce homo, the episode corresponding to The Supper of Emmaus or his appreciated Saint Jerome, the exhibition points to that rivalry that antagonized him with other painters. This may not be an intrinsically artistic reason but dramatizes and grants a narrative to the life and work of a creator certainly unrepeatable and unimaginable, making him somewhat closer, almost human.

Bruce Nauman

New York, until February 25

The Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) offers a particularly representative exhibition of Bruce Nauman’s search for artistic expression.

An artist alien to any form of aesthetic complacency and committed to understanding what is beyond comprehension. The organizers explain that Nauman “has spent half a century inventing forms to convey both the moral hazards and the thrill of being alive. Employing a tremendous range of materials and working methods, he reveals how mutable experiences of time, space, movement, and language provide an unstable foundation for understanding our place in the world. For Nauman, both making and looking at art involve “doing things that you don’t particularly want to do, putting yourself in unfamiliar situations, following resistances to find out why you’re resisting.” At a time when the notion of truth feels increasingly under attack, his work compels viewers to relinquish the safety of the familiar, keeping us alert, ever vigilant, and wary of being seduced by easy answers”. It follows, after this eloquent depiction, the rejection of the categorization of Nauman’s work, which includes "delicate watercolors, flashing neon signs, sound installations". All this recalls the ungovernable variety of his search, as well as the perpetual change in which the artist who seeks is immersed.

Color and Light: The Neo-Impressionist Henri-Edmond Cross

Potsdam, until February 17

Every artistic movement is recognized after its big names, representatives of a style with characteristics that are supposed to be common, mutual knowledge and the presence of relatively interchangeable aesthetic concerns

according to their life time. This facilitates the identification and celebration of the main creators, but at the same time leaves aside so many names, that -except for the circle of experts- are usually not known. If we think of the so-called Impressionist school -and its eagerness to paint in the open air the fluctuation of natural phenomena, based on seemingly unrelated brushstrokes- a dozen names show easily, a list probably not including Henri-Edmond Cross's. Certainly, there will be some who recognize him as a post-impressionist due to his advanced pointillism (but even this -ism does not contemplate it from the start, since it enthroned two others: Seurat and Signac). The Barberini museum in Potsdam, a few kilometres from Berlin, devotes a wonderful exhibition to him, in which those features and themes can be recognized. Beyond the clichés, however, visitors can enjoy the representation of motifs and scenes through a daring chromatic confluence, a re-composition from dissimilar tonalities that the retina undertakes to identify the natural reality, intellectually unified in the act of understanding (a phenomenological procedure that the philosopher Kant had tested, the previous century). In any case, the gap that separates and combines abstraction and figurativism is amazingly evident not only in the work of the most popular post-impressionists-Van Gogh, Gauguin or Cézanne-but also in Henri-Edmond Cross.


Madrid, until March 10

One of the paradoxes that contemporary art faces, and that Banksy has staged jokingly, is that of the veneration of a work that claims to be transgressive,

anti-academic and, in many cases, a questioner of the status quo and the well-thought conscience of art consumers themselves. Banksy has celebrated this paradox in the grey scenario of cities, its natural environment, as well as in the glamorous auction rooms, in which a work of his -newly purchased- self-destructed. But also, of course, by means of the wonderful movie Exit Through the Gift Shop, in which an imitator becomes as authentic in the eyes of art lovers as Banksy himself; he who bases part of his artifice on the frontal rejection of the identity, in other words, avoiding himself to be possessed as an artist. Genius or Vandal?, the title of the exhibition devoted to Banksy, abounds in that boutade: the public space is invaded with an art so subversive that cannot even rejoice from its anti-system exploits -without falling into the trap of artistic success- nor of course be Banksy qualified with the romantic epithet of "genius". The dilemma is, therefore, falsely exclusive... like everything in Banksy. We are not in a Garibaldian alternative -type "Rome o morte"- but, rather, the need to take positions is identified with a constitutive ambiguity: the difficulty lies in appreciating his art without being an accomplice of the good conscience that derives from participation in denunciation, a good conscience that renounces finally any responsibility. Vandalism genius or genius of vandalism, the fundamental question -the fascinating thing about Banksy’s art- is that it operates as a mirror that reflects itself, alternating the consciousness of its own gaze with that of a different reality, that is never entirely alien. Banksy reveals to be, beyond ambiguity, a humanist. And if he lectures, he does it with a ruthless form of “love without mercy”-to use an expression by Slavoj Zizek- laying on a same level the human capacity to create and its no less potential stupidity.

Modern Couples. Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde

London, unit January 27

The vision of the artist as a completely autonomous genius -that would seem to emerge by spontaneous generation, oblivious to the influences of his environment- has been proven false in most cases.

In this sense, it is increasingly common to discover in the artistic works the imprint of their closest friends, and very specifically of the respective couples. A large exhibition at the London Barbican illustrates the artistic feedback that was given to many of the fundamental creators for the development of twentieth-century art, both in cases where the two members of the couple were recognized artists and those who did not. Some of the pairs present in the exhibition are Dora Maar and Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca; Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin; Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Emilie Flöge & Gustav Klimt, Alma Mahler and Gustav Mahler, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose, Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The website that announces the event also provides details of some of these couples, so artistic and fertile in terms of feedback. For example, in the case of Rodin / Claudel, who were models for each other and, respectively, a source of inspiration.

Sign up for the newsletter and get cultural events delivered to your inbox.