Opera North Blog

Apocalypse season at the Howard Assembly Room

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The Apocalypse will be visited on the Howard Assembly Room this May with a mini season of talks and films to complement our epic staging of Wagner’s Ring cycle in Leeds Town Hall.

Leading environmentalist, writer and Guardian columnist George Monbiot opens the season on 18 May with a talk based on his latest book How Did We Get into This Mess? Fresh from a recent ‘break’ from journalism – during which he has been writing a novel and co-writing an album – he assesses the devastation of the natural world, the crisis of inequality and the decline of the political debate, and ‘strives to think beyond protest towards realistic, representative solutions’ (The Times).

The Vietnam War is the setting for Francis Ford Coppola’s hallucinatory exploration of psychic devastation, Apocalypse Now, which returns to the big screen on 20 May. Presented in surround sound with an introduction by Dr Alan O’Leary of the University of Leeds, this unforgettable film follows Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on a nightmarish quest to find renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando at his malignant best) and “terminate with extreme prejudice”. A towering modern epic drawing heavily on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and the writings of Nietzsche, Apocalypse Now’s legendary sequences include an air raid orchestrated to Wagner’s 'Ride of the Valkyries'.

Melancholia, Lars von Trier’s ‘beautiful movie about the end of the world’ is screened on 21 May. Wagner’s dramatic Prelude from Tristan and Isolde sets the scene for the wedding of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård), just as Earth is threatened with a collision with Planet Melancholia. In another nod to Wagner, this visionary, provocative and ultimately exhilarating film makes strong use of visual and sonic leitmotifs thoughout. A joint ticket for the two films costs just £7.50 (not available online).

On Thursday 26 May Philip Kitcher, Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University and author of Finding an Ending: Reflections on Wagner’s Ring, probes the cycle’s philosophical and psychological themes, with Dr Martin Pickard of Opera North and singers involved in the productions. Inside Opera: The Ring offers a unique exploration of Wagner’s monumental achievement, with live musical illustrations.

Opera North will also be decamping to Leeds Central Library to continue our Ring celebrations with a new art installation and a day of storytelling for families. From 16 to 26 May artist Emma Critchley will fill the Library’s new arts space, Room 700, with The water sinks down with them, an immersive film and sound work inspired by the opening bars of Wagner’s masterpiece. On 28 May there will be a chance for the whole family to get involved when a new indoor tent pops up to host Gold, Gods and Giants, an exploration of the myths of the Ring through music and interactive storytelling.

Tickets for all events at the Howard Assembly Room are available from the Box Office on 0844 848 2727 or online at howardassemblyroom.co.uk.  

The Ring Cycle is financially supported by the Opera North Future Fund, The Ring Fellowship 2016, Ring Circle and The Emerald Foundation. 

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