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Irrepressible wit, flamboyant fantasy and subversive satire are the flavour of the month for Professor Anthony Ogus, taking the form of Russian whimsy at the opera in Brussels to Gallic effervescence among a group of lively students – in Manchester, of all places

As the British government continues its headlong rush to sever ties with the Continent, I feel that there are few places better for a pro-European opera-loving Englishman to seek out culture than Brussels. Although I consider myself familiar with the city, I had not previously realised how rich it was in Art Nouveau architecture. So, on a very cold but sunny morning, I ventured out to the city’s southern suburbs to visit the Maison Autrique, built in 1893 by Beligium’s finest exponent of Art Nouveau houses, Vincent Horta. While I was in the vicinity, I marvelled at many other examples of early 20th-century residential design, of a kind which you cannot see in Britain.

Because the main opera house in the heart of Brussels, the Théâtre de la Monnaie, was being restored, operatic performances had been transferred to a venue in Molenbeek, a suburb better known for its associations with terrorism than culture. After a rather nervous walk I reached the so-called Palais de la Monnaie. The tent-like structure was not exactly palatial (and I won’t mention the toilets…) but the performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Le coq d’or (The Golden Cockerel) made up for any lack in aesthetic charm.

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About Opera Now

British soprano Sophie Bevan discusses her starring role in a new opera at ENO; exploring the hidden art of the répétiteur; traditional craftsmanship meets contemporary design at Oman’s Royal Opera House Muscat; and Cardiff prepares to crown the Singer of the World. Plus, our pick of this year’s top singing competitions around the world; English Touring Opera proves that learning about opera can be educational and fun; American baritone and movie star Nelson Eddy; Simon Callow’s Wagnerian triumph; and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’s legendary recordings.