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Cultural events worth travelling for

Cultural events worth travelling for

From dragon racing in Japan to Big Brother on Broadway

From dragon racing in Japan to Big Brother on Broadway

June/July 2017

CANBERRA  Show of defiance
It is only 50 years since white Australia voted to include aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in population counts. Although that referendum was hailed as a turning point for these peoples’ rights, they still face challenges in contemporary Australia – as visitors to the third Indigenous Art Triennial will undoubtedly feel. The show, which runs at the National Gallery of Australia through the southern-hemisphere winter, will showcase the work of 30 of the most notable contemporary indigenous artists. Subtitled “Defying Empire”, it is intended to be both a rallying cry and a celebration of resilience – and will include works on subjects ranging from oppression to nuclear destruction. Expect to see sculptures, paintings and installations from artists including Brenda L. Croft, Judy Napangardi Watson, Ken Thaiday senior and Jason Wing, whose sculpture “Captain James Crook” (main image) cuts quite a figure.
May 26th-September 10th

LONDON The old wave
Katsushika Hokusai was his own harshest critic. The 18th-century Japanese artist didn’t like anything he made before the age of 70, and he didn’t think he would become a “true artist” until he turned 90. On his deathbed, aged 88, he prayed for a reprieve of just a few years in which to achieve his full potential. A forthcoming exhibition at the British Museum will show that he shouldn’t have been so hard on himself. Focusing on the last 30 years of his life and art, a period of prodigious productivity, “Beyond the Great Wave” will bring together his major paintings, drawings, illustrated books and woodblock prints. It will prove why he was the greatest artist Japan has ever produced – no matter what he might have thought.
May 25th - August 13th

OSAKA Racing the dragon
Known as the city of 808 bridges because of its numerous waterways, Osaka is the perfect setting for Japan’s annual dragon-boat championship, which takes place in July. Teams of 20 male rowers, dressed in matching garb, race their colourful vessels across the finish line on the Okawa river. Painted, often in red and yellow, the boats have a dragon’s head at the stern and a tail at the bow. Dragon-boat racing, imported initially from China several centuries ago, is increasingly popular in Japan, with teams coming from across the Far East, and spectators from even farther afield. The event fits well into Japan’s most vibrant city – brash as the rest are mellow, and home of some of the country’s best street food.
July 16th

SAVONLINNA A newly Finnish-ed opera
The Republic of Finland celebrates its 100th birthday this year and to mark it the Savonlinna Opera Festival has commissioned an opera. Founded in 1912, the festival is held annually in the turreted Olavinlinna Castle. The opening weekend will feature the world premiere of a new work by Aulis Sallinen. Based on a collection of poetry by Lassi Nummi and entitled “The Castle on the Water”, it explores the venue’s history and future. Competing for top billing will be a collaboration with the Bolshoi Theatre, which is bringing two works by Tchaikovsky: “Iolanta” and a concert version of “Eugene Onegin”. Other highlights include a new version of Verdi’s “Rigoletto” “inspired by” the direction of Sir David McVicar for the Royal Opera House in London – you know what they say about the sincerest form of flattery.
July 7th-August 4th

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NEW YORK Big Brother is still watching you
Its title may place it in the past, but George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984” is as pertinent today as it was when he wrote it in 1948. In a futuristic Britain, part of a superstate called Oceana, citizens are constantly monitored via “telescreens” in their homes and independent thinking is characterised as “thoughtcrime” by the party leader known as Big Brother. The play of the novel, produced by Sonia Friedman and Scott Rudin, is due to open on Broadway on June 22nd. Its British run enthralled and unsettled audiences from 2013 to 2015 and the play was widely hailed for its – depressing – relevance and gut-thwacking impact. That was before Trump. Orwell’s novel soared up Amazon’s bestseller list earlier this year after Kellyanne Conway, the senior White House adviser, referred to misinformation as “alternative facts”, a phrase reminiscent of Orwell’s “newspeak”. If “Hamilton” was the musical of the Obama era, perhaps “1984” will prove to be the Broadway hit of the age of Trump.
Hudson Theatre from June 22nd

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