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Bride Revolts, Cranach Nudes, Red-Light Bar: Brussels Weekend

``Tour (Bruxelles)''
``Tour (Bruxelles)'' (2010) by Studio Wim Delvoye. The tower is perched on the roof of Bozar in Brussels as part of the exhibition ``Wim Delvoye, Knockin' on Heaven's Door,'' which runs through Jan. 23, 2011. Photographer: Philippe De Gobert/BOZAR via Bloomberg

The soprano is crouched in a refrigerator, solemnly observing us when the curtain goes up on Janacek’s “Katya Kabanova.”

That’s not where the composer expected her to spend any part of his story about a sensitive girl trapped in a stifling marriage with a twit who is dominated by the matriarch from hell.

But in Andrea Breth’s stark, gray staging, poor Katya is a lustful rebel, who escapes bourgeois family values to tryst with a local hunk.

Evelyn Herlitzius is radiant in the title role and Renee Morloc stands out as the chilly mother-in-law who ends up on a table mounting her paramour and gets comically entangled in his suspenders without missing a note.

The decor (Annette Murschetz) is in the dusty, flea-market style fashionable on German stages. Leo Hussain conducts vibrantly with a feeling for the drama’s nuances.

“Katya Kabanova,” sponsored by Allianz SE, is at La Monnaie/De Munt, Place de la Monnaie/Muntplaats, tonight at 8 p.m. Information: or +32-70-23-3939.

There’s no intermission (blame the director, not Janacek). Sustenance awaits around the corner at the Belga Queen. Slurp oysters and champagne in the restaurant’s front bar or descend into the former bank’s vaults. At 32 Rue du Fosse aux Loups/Wolvengracht. Information: or +32-2-217-2187.


Lucas Cranach’s plain-faced, voluptuous nudes star in a survey at Bozar. The elegantly organized exhibition features some 150 works by the German Renaissance artist and contemporaries, including Durer and Metsys. The show is full of masterworks that situate Cranach on the cusp between rigid medieval imagery to a more natural style of representation.

Also at Bozar is a show of “gothic” works by Wim Delvoye, better known for his painted Chinese pigs and obsessive interest in the mechanics of the digestive tract. These new metal sculptures -- twisted circles of crucifixes and lace-like structures, including a startling mini-cathedral -- form an impressive counterpoint to the Cranach exhibition.

“The World of Lucas Cranach, an Artist in the Age of Durer, Titian and Metsys” runs through Jan. 23, 2011. The show transfers to the Musee du Luxembourg, Paris, in February 2011. “Wim Delvoye, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” also runs until Jan. 23. Bozar, 23, Rue Ravenstein/Ravensteinstraat. Information: or +32-2-507-8200.

Saturday Night

Al Barmaki, on a narrow street off the Grand’ Place, serves a superb selection of mezze and other Lebanese specialities. The main room is comfortably open and the service welcoming.

Al Barmaki, 67 Rue des Eperonniers/Spoormakerstraat. Information: or +32-2-513-0834.

Mary Gauthier’s songs are like tarnished rhinestones reflecting her raucous, damaged life. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-born Gauthier, who had a semi-hit with “Drag Queens in Limousines,” would probably be categorized as alt-country though she has roots in the Patsy Cline tradition of scorched women sharing tales of pleasure and abandonment. Gauthier will be performing an acoustic set in the small, upper room of a city-center music hall. U.K. singer-songwriter Ben Glover opens.

Ancienne Belgique, 8 p.m., 110 Rue Anspach/Anspachlaan. Information: or +32-2-548-2424.


A Belgian from Flanders who lives in Mexico City, Francis Alys is concerned with borders. One of the most intriguing items in the retrospective at the Wiels arts center is a video of Alys walking -- he seems to walk a lot -- through Jerusalem with a can of green paint letting drip a line across the city that reflects the armistice after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

The show, sponsored by Societe Generale Private Banking, is at Wiels, 354, Avenue Van Volxemlaan, through Jan. 30, 2011. Information: or +32-2-340-0050.

Sunday Night

Fusion cuisine still reigns at Bar Bik, next to the Royal Flemish Theater in the red-light district. The day’s specials listed on the blackboard are usually inventive combinations and the wine selection, though limited, is smart and inexpensive. The opening hours are erratic, so it’s best to call.

Bar Bik, 3 Quai aux Pierres de Taille/Arduinkaai. Information: or 32-2-219-7500.

Peter Sellars will introduce his staging of Gyorgy Kurtag’s “Kafka Fragments” at the theater next door. The Hungarian composer’s virtuoso work, based on some 40 extracts from the author’s letters and diaries, will feature soprano Dawn Upshaw and violinist Geoff Nutall. If you stroll to the rear of the main neo-Renaissance building, you’ll notice a giant metal cement mixer squatting in the square. It’s a newly installed sculpture by Wim Delvoye.

“Kafka Fragments” is at the KVS, 9 Quai aux Pierres de Taille/Arduinkaai, at 8 p.m. Information: or 32-2-210-1112.

(Jim Ruane is Editor at Large for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions are his own.)

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