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Music revolution! Mozart. Rossini. Whatever next?

Jack H CDean10 June 2014

After learning about the unity that could be achieved at the opera at my last UCL Festival of the Arts event, I was keen to actually experience an aria or two and learn more about the art form that had so compelled Nietzsche.

I was in luck. Will Bowers (UCL English), dressed in two-tone brogues and a pin-stripe suit, like a 1920s mobster who happened to specialise in the opera culture of the romantic period, led the event. Excerpts were sung by Carl Gombrich (bass, Programme Director UCL Arts and Sciences) and Emily Tsui (soprano, second year undergraduate, UCL Arts and Sciences) and Bryan Solomon (UCL Information Services Division) played piano.

Mozart

Mozart

Bowers spoke with elegance and insight about all things 1780s-1820s opera culture. Opera was often performed with “no narrative. It was all about the virtuosity of the performer”. The audience would drink and gamble. The performers would riff and improvise melody and rehearsals were non-existent. Opera existed in a realm of miscellany and elitist debauchery.

It wasn’t until 1789 that the British opera began to shed the shaggy raiments of its past. The Haymarket theatre burnt to the ground and with Britain’s chief opera centre in cinders there was an opportunity for a rethink. The information explosion of the following decade helped in democratising debate and  in siphoning opera into mainstream culture. The opera was a “complicated machine” and Britain was on the verge of a cultural renaissance.

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This is Where We Came in: Memories of 60s Cinema-Going

Sophie EPleterski10 June 2014

60s cinema An acre of seats in the garden of dreams.

Trips to the big screen are often some of our fondest childhood memories. So it was no surprise that the first UCL Festival of the Arts film event was a popular one as we spent a nostalgic hour reconstructing the space of 1960s cinema in Britain through the memories of cinema-goers.

The tiered flip down chairs of the Sir Ambrose Fleming Lecture Theatre and slideshow of iconic cinematic moments—Sean Connery and Shirley Eaton in Goldfinger, Marilyn Monroe, Breakfast at Tiffanys—set the scene for Dr Melvyn Stokes and Dr Matthew Jones (UCL History) to talk about the findings of their research project, which explores how cinema shaped the collective experience of during a period of turbulent social change.

Their research opens up questions about our notions of the relationships between memory, experience and space, as well as questioning received narratives of the 1960s decade.

Dr Henry K. Miller (film historian and critic) complemented their talk with a discussion of his research into the history of the first university film department to open in the 60s at UCL Slade School of Fine Art.

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You Must Read This Book!

SiobhanPipa6 June 2014

Everybody has a favourite book, something that you return to time and time again. It might be a dog-eared copy of Lord of the Rings, a well-thumbed version of Pride and Prejudice or my personal favourite, To Kill a Mockingbird.

must_read_book_istockThese are all pretty popular ‘favourite’ books – making regular appearances on must read lists but what about lesser known novels:  the best book you’ve never heard of?

This was the question posed on Wednesday night in the UCL Festival of the Arts event ‘You Must Read This Book!’.

Chaired by UCL President & Provost, Professor Michael Arthur, seven UCL academics were given five minutes each to pitch the book they believed we should read.

Here’s a quick summary of their choices and why they think their book should have won:

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Auschwitz revisited?

GuestBlogger5 June 2014

pencil-iconWritten by Phil Leask, Honorary Research Associate in UCL SELCS (UCL German)

The Auschwitz story – murder on a vast scale, planned, programmed, administered and executed by the Nazis in accordance with an ideology – is too terrible, requiring only homage, beyond the bounds of revisiting, reinterpreting and coolly analysing.

auschwitz awkward

Auschwitz

Or is it?

That was the central question in the UCL Festival of the Arts event Awkward approaches to Auschwitz on 29 June. Three years into their major project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Reverberations of War group from the School of European Languages, Culture and Society revisited Auschwitz. Literally.

They went there and looked, took photos, checked distances, traced the patterns of movement of those doing the killing and those taken to be killed, roamed around the vast complex beyond where the tourists go, located factories and factory sites where slave labour had been used and people had been worked to death, and tried to see it both as it had been and in its present-day context.

Then came the awkward questions …

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