A Tale of Two Opera Houses: Belgium and Turkey

08 Nov

My 7 seven year old son will visit the opera house in Antwerp today, together with his classmates and teachers as part of his school activities. We talked about music and today’s activity as I was driving him to the school this morning. This took me to a trip down the memory lane, and back to the harsh realities of the world I live in 2018.

I grew up in Istanbul, one of the oldest cities in the world with a very rich and complex historical, cultural, and archeological heritage. In my city, I used to go to opera and ballet as a high school, and then a university student. In fact, opera tickets were generally cheaper than cinema tickets, back in the 1990s and beginning of 2000s. The opera house was named “Atatürk Cultural Center”. It was an important part of our collective memory. It’s been demolished recently and this is how it looks as of 2018. This is how collective memory is treated:

My second hometown, for almost the last 10 years is Antwerp, Belgium. And the love for opera that started in Istanbul continues in Antwerp. I witnessed how Belgium treats its cultural heritage and collective memory, and I hope it’ll continue like that or become even better:

As the brutal and harsh treatment of collective memories in Istanbul, and maybe other places in Turkey continues, I wonder what I’ll be able to show to my children, and grandchildren, when we visit Istanbul in the future. Natural earthquakes are terrifying and unpredictable, but what about cultural and architectural earthquakes, driven by politics? Time will tell, and maybe a composer will write an opera about this period of history. One thing that I can count on: it’ll be more difficult to destroy such an abstract artifact.

To make things even more convoluted and ironical, one only needs to remember how some of the Ottoman sultans perceived and valued opera:

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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in Music


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