Prospect recommends

Five things to do this month
July 18, 2013

Left, Matt Damon in Elysium/strong>

Art Peter Doig: No Foreign Lands Scottish National Gallery, from 3rd August

Peter Doig is one of the most highly regarded painters of his generation. Born in 1959, in Edinburgh, his dream-like shimmering landscapes, sparsely populated with figures, boats or buildings, and depicted often in hallucinatory colours, have reinvigorated the figurative tradition, bringing an exotic originality to this once seemingly moribund genre. The title for this show is taken from his compatriot, Robert Louis Stevenson, who once wrote: “There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.” Whisked by his father’s work first to the Caribbean, in 1962, and then to Canada in 1966, Doig has always been a traveller, finding in far flung corners universally arresting images. Today he splits his life between Trinidad, a studio in London and a professorship at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. This exhibition, his first major show in Scotland, represents a significant homecoming.

Emma Crichton-Miller

OperaHippolyte et Aricie Glyndebourne, until 18th August Jean-Philippe Rameau’s first work for the stage was written when he was approaching 50. A renowned musical theorist, his Treatise on Harmony, published in 1722, propelled him to fame and remains the definitive work on 18th century French music. As a composer, he produced cantatas and motets of some distinction but it wasn’t until he turned to opera in 1733, with Hippolyte and Aricie, that he produced a work to equal the revolutionary theories of his Treatise. Raiding Greek tragedy and 17th century French theatre for his text, which involves the characters of Theseus, Phaedra and Hippolytus, Rameau turned the French music scene on its head. Although condemned at the time (it was the first opera to be described as “baroque,” which was decidedly not a compliment) Hippolyte and Aricie fell in and out of favour over the decades until properly recognised as a masterpiece in the early 20th century. The team that brought Purcell’s The Fairy Queen to Glyndebourne —director Jonathan Kent, designer Paul Brown and conductor William Christie (a Rameau scholar whose 1996 production for Opera National de Paris remains a benchmark)—is augmented by choreographer and former artistic director of Scottish Ballet, Ashley Page, for what promises to be the most significant revival of Rameau’s work for some years.

Neil Norman

FilmElysium On release from 23rd August 2154 AD: smoggy Los Angeles sprawls wider than Mexico City. Resources are scarce and shanty-town dwellers scrabble in a chaos of antiquated technology. Just visible in the sky is Elysium, the distant gated community where the elite have taken refuge. Its circular design resembles old Nasa visions of space colonies, with verdant terraces, discreet waterfalls and marbled residences, while sleekly coiffed and tailored residents have access to miraculously restorative healthcare. The minister (Jodie Foster) defending this clinical paradise has an elegant platinum bob and faint European accent reminiscent of Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund.

With his last film, District 9, young South African director Neill Blomkamp made an alien action picture that was also a keen political satire and oddly moving. Here, working with three times the budget and prime Hollywood stars, he has kept his observations and intentions sharp. Concerns over healthcare, dispossession and economic migration are rarely aired in such spectacular style.

Francine Stock

FestivalHappy Days: Enniskillen International Beckett Festival 22nd to 26th August The second international Beckett festival relocates the great Irish writer from his Dublin roots to the town in the north, Enniskillen, where he attended Oscar Wilde’s alma mater, Portora Royal School. Last year’s brilliant inaugural festival under Sean Doran’s direction was a blast of short plays, readings, installations, sports matches, concerts and Beckett hairstyles (there are a dozen barbers in the little main street); this year’s gives pride of place to Beckett’s favourite literary work, Dante’s Divine Comedy. Audiences will descend into Inferno, the 33 cantos read at various locations in the Marble Arch Caves, 12 miles south of Enniskillen, then journey through Purgatorio on an early morning boat journey to isolated islands and onto the Coles Monument. They will rise up to Paradiso on an hour-long plane trip (with poetry readings and Beckettian refreshments) to the Edinburgh festival on 25th August. The literary programme also includes talks by Tariq Ali, Margaret Drabble and Tom Paulin, and Clive James will give a video-linked live interview about translating Dante. Finally, a programme of Beckett’s little-known short prose works will include one of his earliest stories, Dante and the Lobster.

Michael Coveney

ConcertProm 35: Mahler Symphony No 2 Royal Albert Hall, 9th August When Gramophone magazine nominated their World’s Greatest Orchestras in 2008, Mariss Jansons was the only conductor to appear twice on the list—as Chief Conductor of both the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. It’s with the latter that he returns to the BBC Proms this year for two concerts. The second—a performance of Mahler’s mighty Symphony No 2—is the indisputable climax. For many the best conductor in the world, Jansons’s strength is in the relationships he builds with his orchestras. This trust and mutual thrill in each other’s talent translates into bold performances. In the wrong hands, Mahler’s mystical, 90-minute “Resurrection Symphony” could easily become vulgar, but we can rely on Jansons to find the intimacy in the giant musical canvas, to guide listeners through the music Mahler believed contained “nothing except the complete substance of my whole life.” Performed without interval, the symphony takes us from the graveside of a beloved to the horror of the Last Judgement, before we finally attain heavenly redemption in a chorus of angels. Scored for massive orchestral and choral forces as well as two soloists, the spectacle is only equalled by Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. At the core of this epic is the song “Urlicht”—the first appearance of the human voice in Mahler’s symphonies and the most heartfelt plea for deliverance from earthly cares.

Alexandra Coghlan