Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Belgium - Ghent

The town of Ghent is the capital city of the province of East-Flanders. It's a medieval city, like most cities in Flanders. It has many interesting attractions, among which an old steep, called Het Gravensteen which used to be the country seat of the Counts of Flanders. During the Middle Ages and the following centuries, Ghent played an important role in the history of our country. As a result of a failed attempt to gain freedom, Emperor Charles V (and also king of Spain) ordered the inhabitants of Ghent to wear a noose around their necks at official functions.

There is also a university, which has a rather good reputation. And then there are the opera and playhouses.

A couple of years ago, I (and of course some fellow teachers) accompanied our 18-year-olds to Ghent. Our main objective was a visit to the KVS-building (KVS stands for Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg).

To have an idea about its importance, you have to go back to the late 19th century, when only French was spoken in every official instance. Some Flemings wanted to promote their own language and so the Flemish playhouse was built, as an opponent to the French-speaking opera house the other side of town.

The company which plays in the KVS is NTGent. This company consists of 10 actors (5 men, 5 women) with a steady contract (which means they get paid the year through) and is lead by Wim Opbrouck, who is now artistic director. Wim Opbrouck himself appears in major tv-series and is one of our best actors.

Now I have visited many theatres already and been on tours inside of them, but this was the first time we we able to see so much of the workings of a theatre. A technical repetition of the play Parsifal was going on, but neither Wim Opbrouck nor the other actors had any objection against our being there and walking over and around the stage.

Our guide, a young woman named Celine Vanhoutte, had a very good knowledge of the theatre and its history, and this morning my students sang her praise. She was also very good in telling little anecdotes, which make everything that more interesting.

First she told a little about the history and the building of the theatre, then we entered the hall and were shown into the inside. We could listen in to the rehearsal, but we also went backstage and then used all the stairs to see the different levels and what is happening there. We could even peep into the artists' foyer and their loges.

It was a very interesting tour and I can certainly recommend it to others!

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