Ringside – Special Events Inspired by Wagner’s Ring Cycle

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To coincide with its full run of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in November, the Birmingham Hippodrome is presenting a series of special, themed events from 25th October until 8th November. Called Ringside, the diverse programme encompasses everything from film to cabaret, concerts to family friendly adventure games.

Kicking things off in The Patrick Centre on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th October, Reel Access will be screening a film titled Twilightofthefreakinggods, adapted from a play by Stan’s Café, which is in turn based on Wagnerian opera. All in black and white, this striking, wordless movie features a stunning original soundtrack. Twilightofthefreakinggods begins at  6.30pm on the Saturday and 2.30pm on the Sunday, with tickets priced at £6. Check out the Stan’s Cafe website for more information and clips, or click here to book.

Then, on Saturday 1st November, a packed schedule starts at 11am with One Of Our Singers Is Missing, a real-life, interactive game open to all. Participants will be sent to search for a missing opera singer, following clues to save the star and bring them safely back to the Hippodrome. This free adventure will be taking place every 15 minutes until 4pm. To join in, you’ll need to book a place via the Birmingham Hippodrome Website.

At 4pm, Neil Brand, presenter of BBC4’s acclaimed Sound of Cinema – The Music that Made the Movies series, will be discussing modern film scores and searching for elements of Wagner within them. Film Music and the Ghost of Wagner will be taking place in the Patrick Centre with tickets priced at £10. Click here to book.

Then from 5.30pm, students from the Birmingham Conservatoire will be taking over the Hippodrome foyer to play Wagner’s much-loved Siegfried Idyll, conducted by David Purser. Based on one of Brunnhilde’s melodies from The Ring Cycle, the song was written by the composer as a birthday present to his wife. This event will be open to all with no advance booking required.

This beautiful free concert will be followed by an evening of cabaret with West End stars Kit and McConnell, who will be offering their own irreverent take on the opera repertoire in The Fat Lady Sings. A veteran of Radio 4’s Just A Minute, Kit Hesketh Harvey is also well known for his work as one half of comedy duo, Kit and the Widow. The Fat Lady Sings will take place in the Patrick Centre from 7.30pm. Tickets cost £18 and can be booked online here.

On Sunday 2nd November, Birmingham’s Electric Cinema will be running a special screening of Fritz Lang’s Siegfried at 11.30am. One of the classics of early cinema, this 1924 film will be accompanied by an authentic live piano score played by Neil Brand. Tickets cost £10-16.50 and can be booked via The Electric’s website.

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Finally, on Saturday 8th November, leading soprano singers Susan Bullock and Catherine Foster will discuss the challenges of performing in a five-hour-long opera in Brunch with the Brunnhildes at 11.30am in the Patrick Centre. Hosted by Spectator journalist and presenter of Radio 4’s Front Row, Matthew D’Ancona, the event will cost £25 to attend with brunch included in the ticket price. Menu and booking details can be found on the Hippodrome website.

The Ring Cycle will run at the Birmingham Hippodrome in four parts, presented on Wednesday 5th, Thursday 6th, Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th November. Each show will be conducted by Valery Gergiev and performed by the Mariinsky Opera. More information is available here.

Birmingham Literature Festival: 8-12 October 2013

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carol-ann-duffy-portrait-300x199Celebrations in honour of the new Library of Birmingham will continue over the next few days with the return of the similarly re-designed Birmingham Literature Festival (formerly Birmingham Book Festival). To coincide with National Poetry Day, the festival kicks off tomorrow with the announcement of the city’s new poet laureate, alongside readings from previous bearers of the title. Following this, acclaimed poets Carol Ann Duffy and Imtiaz Dharker will be performing their work in the library’s studio.Imtiaz

The festival lasts until 12th October, featuring a whole host of exciting guests including Germaine Greer, Benjamin Zephaniah, Will Self, Shami Chakrabarti, Lionel Shriver, Jonathan Coe and Stuart Maconie, as well an interesting mix of local writers and their work. There will also be a series of writing workshops, covering a whole host of subjects from children’s Germaine-Greer-252x300animation, to poetry in translation, and from sci-fi and horror genre writing to maximising your productivity as a writer. On Sunday 6th October, BBC Radio 4 will be attending, bringing Poetry Please and With Great Pleasure to live Birmingham audiences, with appearances from poets Roger McGough and Paul Farley.

Benjamin-Zephaniah1-for-website-300x225On Wednesday 9th, a group of writers shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize will be reading from their work and answering audience questions in the studio theatre, and on Friday 11th, you can catch a rehearsed reading of Alan Bennett‘s lost television play, Denmark Hill, a black comedy set in South East London. The performance is organised by the Birmingham REP, and will finish with a Q&A session with director Tristram Powell.

Roger-McGough-Poetry-PleaseIf you’re strapped for cash, there are plenty of free events taking place throughout the festival, including the aforementioned Radio 4 recordings. On Sunday 6th, you can join West Midlands storytellers for Tell Me On a Sunday at the Ikon Gallery, and on Tueday 8th, Wednesday 9th and Saturday 12th, you can attend launch events for brand new anthologies of poetry, fiction and art.

will-self-credit-polly-boland-237x300It’s great to see the West Midlands continuing to celebrate arts and culture on both national and local levels. Let’s hope the festival gets as good a turn-out as the Four Squares Weekender!

NB: Look out for me in a bright pink t-shirt if you’re around on Tuesday 8th, Thursday 10th or Friday 11th!