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Culture beat – 17 July
Belgium celebrates its National Day on Tuesday 21 July with a public holiday, festivities and fireworks across the country. The party starts on Monday evening with numerous local and regional events, including the Bal national 2015 in the Place du Jeu de Balle at 19.30. In the capital there’s the traditional military and civil parade in Place Royale in front of a line of royals and dignitaries (from 16.00). Free activities abound, in the Royal Park and Place Poelaert, military stands in Mont des Arts and concerts in the Sablon. Tuck into Belgian favourite Mussels and fries in a Resto national in the Place du Jeu de Balle from 18.00 (price €21). A musical fanfare is served alongside and a concert by Rita & Les Martins. The national day wraps up with a firework finale in Place des Palais at 23.00. Public transport recommended.
Following a free concert at Bozar by the Belgian National Orchestra and pianist Mateusz Borowiak on Monday evening, the arts centre continues its national holiday celebrations by opening its doors free of charge on Tuesday. Among the swathe of exhibitions on display, are The Belgians, an Unexpected Fashion Story, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Young Belgian Art Prize 2015 and Chinese Utopias Revisited.
Belgium is not only a music festival hub. Theatre and outdoor performances are staged in towns and cities around the country. In Brussels, the Bruxellons Festival is an annual feast all summer long, set in the charming Château Karreveld in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean. One highlight is The Sound of Music, or Mélodie du Bonheur, this being a French language production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical classic. Some 40 artists and a live orchestra of 10 musicians perform the show until 4 September. A total of 100 performances include shows for both linguistic communities. Bruxellons’ programmes features ‘the best of’ popular theatre from the French community’s season. A dinner buffet and scenic bar are available from 18.45.
The satirical world of Molière returns to the evocative setting of Villers Abbey for its 29th annual outdoor summer show until 8 August. Le Malade Imaginaire is a comic romp that perfectly suits the ancient ruins of the 17th-century Cistercian abbey. Seasoned actor Michel Kacenelenbogen adopts the role of maligned hypochondriac Argan, ably supported by an adept cast, in particular cheeky servant Toinette. As night falls and the spotlights transform the abbey into a magical backdrop, the drama transfers to the novices courtyard (the audience follows) for a hilarious musical interlude that slickly transforms into a bar for the interval. Set during the reign of Louis XIV, the play’s action occurs during a few critical days with arranged marriages, star-crossed lovers and an avaricious step-mother in the comic mix. Patrice Mincke directs and Patrick de Longrée produces.
Mons’ Grand-Place is filled with sunflowers in a playful tribute to the artist Vincent Van Gogh who spent a few formative years in the region and whose famous series of sunflower paintings symbolised happiness. Sun City is a 3,000m2 labyrinth of 8,000 flowers; an artistic sensory tour for visitors who don headsets to enjoy sounds, poems, song and music. Created by Fanny Bouyagui, the pop-up installation is open to visitors until 26 July. Five varieties of sunflower feature in the display: Soleil Waooh, Prado Gold, Schnitwunder, Hoog and Russian Giant, with the seeds originating from Italy, Spain, the south of France and cultivated in Belgium. The inauguration is this evening at 18.00.