Sunday, 10 January 2010

Opera and Human Rights

Over the years, we have had some interesting events at the Irish Centre for Human Rights on culture and its relation to human rights, including seminars or conferences on James Joyce, Mozart and Schubert. We've done this in association with some of Galway's great cultural institutions, including Kenny's Bookshop, Music for Galway, the Contempo Quartet and Dr. Jane O'Leary. PhD students sometimes get a bit obsessed with their own projects, and I believe they need to enrich their own personal culture by learning more about (and enjoying) the fine arts.
Galway, where our Centre is located, is a lovely town in the west of Ireland, but it lacks some of the cultural activities of big cities. One of them is opera. Besides being wonderful entertainment, combining great music, drama and extravagant performances, opera often deals with many of the eternal themes of human rights, including torture, the death penalty and women’s equality. Many of its leading composers were themselves ideologically motivated, and this is reflected in their work.
Now, opera has come to Galway, through the ‘Live From the Met on HD’ broadcasts ( These take place on Saturday evenings at Galway’s Eye cinema. The operas are shown on a large screen, with wine, cheese and even popcorn at the intervals, and they are fabulous. Apparently even Dublin doesn’t have this! The performances are live transmissions from one of the world’s greatest opera houses, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, which has been broadcast on radio for many decades. By the way, I am sure you can get this on radio via the internet if there is no cinema nearby.
Next Saturday (16 January) the Met will broadcast Bizet’s Carmen. For those of you who are not familiar with opera, it is as good a place as any to start. Carmen is one of the most popular operas, with familiar songs and great drama. Carmen herself is a Roma cigar maker, in Spain, who is rebellious and fiercely independent. But get your tickets quickly. We were told last night, when we saw Der Rozenkavalier by Strauss, that the Eye cinema is booked solid next Saturday. They have opened a second cinema to satisfy the demand. It should be a great evening.
We’re particularly excited because the conductor next Saturday is Yannick Néguet-Séguin, one of the world’s rising stars. Yannick comes from Montréal, and is a childhood friend of our daughters. We remember him playing the piano at parties at our home, when we lived in Montréal. Then he was a precocious young musician, but we would never have dreamed at the time that we’d see him in the pit at the Met.

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