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Staging European languages and memories: the sounds and rhythms of the Great War

ucyow3c24 November 2014

pencil-icon Written by Stefanie van Gemert, PhD candidate, UCL Dutch

I-died-in-hell-1024x682

Is there a particular rhythm to war and violence? And if so, does it sound staccato, repetitive like machine guns and marching boots? Or are its sounds tempting, magical perhaps? Do they appeal to universal feelings of longing – for mum to be proud, for the kiss of a pretty girl? Alex Marshall’s article in Saturday’s Guardian explores these questions, discussing the allure of the ‘ISIS anthem’.

On Tuesday 4 November we did something similar at the Bloomsbury Theatre, exploring sounds of the First World War in a multimedia and multilingual performance: ‘I died in hell – (They called it Passchendaele)’.

A century after the Great War began, violence seems to be everywhere. Even in peaceful Bloomsbury we cannot escape the updates on our mobile phones: yet another child wounded, another journalist killed.

As global citizens, we are extremely well-connected and yet continuously distracted, under the bombardment of 140-character shallow opinions and beeping newsfeeds. How can we, in this state, relate to the overwhelming global violence in a personal manner?

This event, organised by the Centre for Low Countries Studies and the Flemish-Dutch cultural magazine Ons Erfdeel, involved a writer/artistic director, a translator, a video artist, seven students from UCL’s School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS), two professional actors and a European collection of poetry and film footage of the Great War. Its collage-like structure and its multilingual approach underlined the global aspect of this conflict: something to be reminded of in November when poppies appear to be symbols of a straightforwardly English tradition.

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The Snowmaiden, University College Opera, Bloomsbury Theatre, March 2014

ucyow3c1 April 2014

pencil-icon Written by Professor Mark Ronan, UCL Mathematics

Rimsky-Korsakov’s SnowmaidenA Spring Fairy Tale, like many Russian operas, is a series of tableaux, brilliantly realised here in a production by Christopher Cowell.

UCOpera, photo 2014 © www.johnreading.co.uk

UCOpera, photo 2014 © www.johnreading.co.uk

The simple yet highly effective designs by Bridget Kimak, atmospherically lit by Jake Wiltshire, gave a magical quality to the world of the Berendeyans, who have been in the grip of Father Frost for 16 years.

He has remained with Mother Spring to look after their child Snyegurochka — the Snowmaiden — rather than retreat to the northern tundra, but Snyegurochka, now fifteen wants to join the human world.

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University College Opera performs I Lombardi

news editor21 March 2013

pencil-icon Written by Professor Mark Ronan, UCL Mathematics

After UCOpera’s production of a Rameau work last year, which suffered from over-ambitious direction that didn’t gel, I was unsure what this year’s I Lombardi would be like. I need not have worried — it was terrific.

Giselda, image ©UCOpera

Giselda, image ©UCOpera

Suits of armour and chain mail are expensive, so director Jamie Hayes has updated it to warring gangs from the 1960s, with guns and the occasional knife. I Lombardi meets West Side Story, but it really works, and Charles Peebles produced wonderful playing from the orchestra.

Early Verdi is so full of energy, and UCL have made a perfect choice for his bicentenary year. This is the opera that followed Nabucco, which starts a new run at the Royal Opera House on Easter Saturday, so here is an excellent chance to see the next collaboration between Verdi and his early librettist Temistocle Solera.

As an enthusiast for Italian unification and the Risorgimento, the story of Lombards fighting Islamic warriors formed an attractive background that would have resonated with Verdi’s audience, but the First Crusade no longer inspires us, so I applaud the change of location in time and space.

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The biggest Science Showoff ever

Katherine Aitchison8 November 2012

“There are massive f***ing error bars on every adjective I’m going to use tonight.”

Those are the words every scientist wants to hear at the start of a comedy night. We like to be assured that all the jokes we’re about to hear have been properly tested and subjected to significance testing.  Of course, if the error bars are massive then the results probably aren’t significant – but we won’t go into that.

So this was Science Showoff, a monthly open mic night for scientists, science communicators, science historians or anyone else in any way connected with the scientific world to come and be funny whilst talking about what they love. It’s a monthly event which has been running for just over a year and 7November saw the biggest Showoff to date in the Bloomsbury Theatre.

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