please wait ...

2019-20 season's lectures

Oct 15
Peter Medhurst
Dec 10
Simon Rees
Jan 28
Rafael Anderson
Feb 18
Anne-Marie O'Connor
Mar 10
Brian Healey
Mar 24
Antonio Guerra and Company and narrator Helen Sijsling
Apr 7
Anthea Streeter
May 31*
May 31*
May 31*
May 31*
May 31*

* morning lecture, in the Museo de Nerja
Unless otherwise stated, all lectures are in the Cultural Centre, calle Granada, Nerja and start at 6pm.

Lecture date: October 15th 2019(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

Vivaldi in Venice

Peter Medhurst
NB. This is the third Tuesday of the month.

Vivaldi is the one Baroque composer whose music is a direct reflection of the city in which it was composed. Listen to a Vivaldi concerto and hey presto you are transported directly to the heart of 18th century Venice.
The reasons for this are many. First, Vivaldi was a son of Venice and had an inate understanding of Venice’s unique aesthetic, which included a passion for colour, spectacle and display of emotion, points that are reflected time and time again in his music. Second, Venice solved its problems with abandoned and orphaned children in a altruistic manner and the way in which that was done impacted on Vivaldi as a composer, teacher and musical director. Third, Vivaldi’s health problems and his eccentricities as a man and a priest dictated his path as a musician and performer in Venice’s cultural life.
Against the luxurious backdrop of 18th century Venice, and with live musical performances, this lecture (or study day) explores the amazing world of Vivaldi’s music – music that is as intrinsically Venetian as the canvasses of Canaletto.
Some of the themes appearing in the lecture

The Venetian Concerto

Throughout its history, show and spectacle have been central to the image that the Venetians have projected to rest of the world. Whether this was a dignified procession from the Doge’s palace to the basilica, or the annual Marriage with the Sea, when the Doge cast a gold ring into the lagoon as a sign of true and perpetual dominion over the Adriatic (see below). These events have all helped to give Venice a sense of theatre, showmanship and drama.

Rituals of state reached their height during Vivaldi’s lifetime, when Venice consciously changed its identity from being a powerful force on the stage of European politics and international trade and commerce, to being a tourist attraction and a place of entertainment – a role that it has upheld to this day.

In the musical world of Venice, there is a particular form that may be said to parallel the phenomena of show and spectacle: the concerto – a form that even today is designed to entertain, to move, to amaze, and above all, to impress.
Vivaldi is particularly remembered for the writing of concertos (some 600 in all), in fact, it could be argued that Vivaldi is the inventor of the concerto, as we might know it today. In other words, a musical form that is designed to show off the skills of a soloist – or soloists – who are placed against the backdrop of an accompanying orchestra.

The Ospedali
In order to understand were charitable institutions for orphans and abandoned children, especially girls. Originally, these foundations were designed as ‘hotels’ for crusaders, but as the crusades abated, their function was changed into charitable foundations (orphanages), and became famous for their high grade level of tuition, and more important, for their high grade level of music making.
The four Venetian Ospedali attracted a wide range of high grade music teachers, for example after his arrival in Venice in 1670, Giovanni Legrenzi took a position as music teacher at the Ospedale Santa Maria dei Derelitti, remaining there until 1676. While in 1740, composer and harpsichordist Baldessare Galuppi was appointed director of music at the Ospedale dei Mendicanti.
The Ospedale della Pietà was the foundation with which Vivaldi had a lifetime connection (1703 -1739) and it was for them that the bulk of his concertos and religious music was written. The musical standard reached in the Pietà Chapel – and those of the other Ospedali – was so great, that large congregations were attracted to them in order to hear the choirs and instrumentalists perform, especially in Lent, when music in other churches tended to be less elaborate.

Edward Wright writing in the 1720s remarked:
Every Sunday and holiday there is a performance of music in the chapels of these hospitals, vocal and instrumental, performed by the young women of the place, who are set in a gallery above and, though not professed, are hid from any distinct view of those below by a lattice of ironwork. The organ parts, as well as those of the other instruments are all performed by the young women. They have a eunuch for their master and he composes most of their music. Their performance is surprisingly good … and this is all the more amusing since their persons are concealed from view.

The public wanted to hear the girls play concertos, the girls needed concertos to play, and Vivaldi found employment by writing concertos. The writing of concertos, coupled with Vivaldi’s great skills as a violinist, made him become one of the greatest concerto writers of all time.

Venice and colour
Colour, is something that you can find everywhere in Venice, whether it is used in the decoration that can be seen on the west end of St Mark’s Basilica. or whether it is the famous glass that is produced on the island of Murano, or even the highly decorated posters that advertise the carnival each year.
In the world of art, the Venetian painters were famous for their use of colour; and one of the most celebrated colourists of all time was Paolo Veronese, based in Venice, and his Wedding at Cana shows his skill in this direction to an astonishing degree (see below)
This passion for – and use of – colour may in part reflect the ready availability of high quality pigments such as ultramarine, made from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan. And this, joined with the fact that canvas, the fabric of ship sails, was more popular as a support for paintings in Venice than anywhere else and may have stimulated a preference for the bold, highly visible, expressive brushwork that is such a distinctive feature of Venetian painting. It could be argued then, that the long tradition Venice had for trading over seas, as well as its importance as a seafaring port, may well have had a direct influence on this aspect of the arts. This is cause and effect.
Turning now to music, I can think of no other Baroque composer who could be said to have more ‘colour’ in his music than Vivaldi. And by colour, I don’t just mean the subtleties of harmonic and rhythmic textures that lie in his compositions, but the highly imaginative scoring of his concertos and religious music. In other words, his choice of musical instruments for a particular work in question.
Vivaldi used a greater range of instruments in his music than any other composer that I know of during this period, and the range of instruments in turn reflects the variety of instruments played by the young girls at the Ospedale della Pietà: mandoline, tromba marina, recorders, bassoon, clarinet, trumpet, lute, horn etc

Peter last spoke to us in December 2014, about in the wake of Handel: the impact of Handel on 300 years of British Culture

Lecture date: October 29th 2019(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

Gadir, the Phoenician Western Pearl

Manuel Parodi
Cádiz, in Andalusia, the ancient site of Gadir, is the oldest city in the Western World. Founded by the Phoenicians more than three thousand years ago, its History speaks of gods, heroes, adventures, conquests and journeys in the dawn of Time. The unknown Kingdom of Tartesos, the great Empires of the East, the Egypt of the pharaohs and the Homeric demigods, all their secrets are kept in the History of a city, Gadir-Cádiz, which today presents the proofs of its mythical and glorious past. And we shall travel through time and History to get closer to that mythical and fabulous ancient world of Gadir, the Phoenician Western Pearl.

Lecture date: November 12th 2019(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

The Hands of Leonardo da Vinci

Guy Rooker

The hand has been an underestimated but nevertheless central component of visual art. Leonardo stated that the hand could be as expressive as the face and acknowledged that the structure and function of the hand was the organ through which an artist expresses himself. His remarkably accurate drawings of the six layers of anatomy of the hand are testament to his pursuit of detail. He used this knowledge in the narrative of the Last Supper. In Leonardo’s version of the Vitruvian Man the hand is used as the unit of measurement to demonstrate the concept of divine proportion. This talk reviews the way in which Leonardo investigated the form and function of the hand. His paintings and narrative art are reviewed to demonstrate how he used this knowledge to depict the hand as a form of expression.


Lecture date: November 22th 2019(12:00 in the Museo de Nerja)

Stolen artefacts:

the ongoing looting of ancient cultural heritage
Hans Kuitert

Member's Talk

venue: Museo de Nerja at 12:00

Since the dawn of civilization the looting and often brutal destruction of ancient cultural heritage is an ongoing, though hardly noticed reality. It continues untill today. After the illegitimate trade in weapons and drugs stolen art is the third largest pilar of the black market.
In ancient times it was common practice to completely erase cities that were conquered, resulting in huge losses of ancient heritage . In Egypt, which still houses huge treasures, the graves of the mighty, like the piramids and the caves in the Valley of the Kings were robbed empty. Colonial powers in later centuries shipped the best examples of ancient times to their respective countries. The Louvre and the Victoria and Albert museum bear witness of that.
The often murky trade of artefacts continues to boom. Nowadays it is possible for shady collectors to order art thefts. Warehouses of musea in Egypt and elsewhere are looted on demand. Wars (like in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan), revolutions (like in Libya during the Arab Spring) and salafistic islamic ideology literally flattens what has survived for centuries. Iraq lost large parts of its Mesopotamian richness, not only because of the war but also as a result of widescale robbery of its musums and the ensueing illegal trade.
Special focus since three or four decades is on the trade in (and falsification of) texts of the bible from the early days of christianity, most notably those of gospels the church had banned from the New Testament. These texts are written on fragile papyrus and clay tablets, mostly in old Coptic, Arameic or ancient Greek. It is a expanding booming business.

Lecture date: December 10th 2019(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

Carmen in Seville

Simon Rees

Bizet’s opera Carmen, about the flamboyant, tragic figure of the gypsy woman Carmen and her lovers, the soldier Don Jose and the bullfighter Escamillo, is based on a novella by Prosper Mérimee. Mérimee was an archaeologist and historian as well as a novelist, and much of his descriptive writing, carried across to the opera’s libretto, was based on observation. Carmen famously worked in the tobacco factory in Seville but, far from being a dusty warehouse, this Baroque palace was the second-largest building in Spain. Now part of Seville University, it preserves many of the tobacco factory’s furnishings, and celebrates its role as Carmen’s workplace. Candilejo, the street where Lillas Pastia had his tavern, is still visitable, as is the bullring of the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, on the bank of the Guadalquivir river, where Carmen meets her fate. Simon Rees has worked as dramaturg on many productions of Carmen, and has photographed these and other locations in Seville, as well as researching costumes, sets and original productions, and musical illustrations, to give a vivid picture of Bizet’s most famous opera.

Lecture date: January 14th 2020(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

Stolen Masterpieces: the Most Sensational Art Thefts in History

Shauna Isaac

Stolen Masterpieces looks at famous works of art that have been stolen, such as Munch's The Scream and the masterpieces that were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, including works by Vermeer and Rembrandt. Other works that I’ll look at include Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna with the Yarnwinder and Titian’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt. I'll talk about why thieves steal and the appeal of famous masterpieces. I will also discuss how art theft is the 3rd largest international crime after the selling of drugs and arms, and the implications of this.


Lecture date: January 28th 2020(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

Copenhagen - City of the Future

Rafael Anderson

We have already caught up with and overtaken our 20th century vision of the future, we are now in a more subtle phase. We are talking now about integrating layers, joining things up, creating ecosystems that are whole, using technology to harmonize what we have.
Copenhagen is already ahead of much of Europe in developing principles of sustainability, it is setting an example for the rest to follow. The city is a soundbox of ideas, many as yet unrealized, that will give us hope for our collective future.

Lecture date: February 11th 2020(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

From Magic Lanterns to Metro Goldwyn Meyer - the birth of the Silver Screen and the Artists it inspired.

Geri Parlby PhD, FRSA,MA.BA

The moving image has been a powerful source for imagination from the first moment a magic lantern flickered into life in the 17th century. In this lecture we will be looking at how the Motion Pictures industry first developed throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how it was inspired by and inspired in turn some of the greatest artists of the early 20th century.


Lecture date: February 18th 2020(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

Lady in Gold - a 'double bill'

  • The 2015 film Woman in Gold starring Helen Mirren
  • An introduction by Anne-Marie O'Connor
This is a story of art and justice, about an artist, Gustav Klimt, who was born in poverty and became a celebrated modernist; and his progressive intellectual Jewish female patrons, who also supported Freud and other cutting edge intellectuals of Vienna’s fin-de-siecle golden age. These remarkable women were persecuted when Hitler came to Vienna, and their Klimt paintings were stolen.

For years there was no justice, until an elderly Vienna emigre in Los Angeles, Maria Altmann, stepped forward to demand the return of her family’s stolen Klimt paintings. This will be a slideshow with images of art and sepia photos from the era.

About the film

Woman in Gold is a 2015 biographical drama film directed by Simon Curtis and written by Alexi Kaye Campbell.
The film stars Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Brühl, Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Max Irons, Charles Dance, Elizabeth McGovern, and Jonathan Pryce.

About Anne-Marie O'Connor

Anne-Marie O'Connor is a veteran foreign correspondent, culture writer and former war reporter who has covered everything from post-Soviet Cuba to American artists and intellectuals. O'Connor attended Vassar and the San Francisco Art Institute and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, where she and fellow students co-created an award-winning documentary on the repression of mural artists after the 1973 military coup in Chile.
She covered the wars in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala as a Reuters bureau chief in Central America; the Shining Path guerrillas in Peru, coups in Haiti and U.S. interventions in Haiti and Panama; and covered Cuba and Haiti for a newspaper chain. At the Los Angeles Times she chronicled the violence of Mexico's Arellano-Felix drug cartel, U.S. political convention; and profiled such figures as Nelson Mandela, George Soros, Joan Didion, John McCain, and Maya Lin.
Her story on Maria Altmann's effort to recover the family Klimt collection appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine in 2001. She has written for Esquire, The Nation, and The Christian Science Monitor, and is a contributor to the Washington Post in London.

Anne-Marie's website


Lecture date: March 24th 2020(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

From Folklore to Flamenco: the Music of Málaga: its history and rhythms

Antonio Guerra and Company and narrator Helen Sijsling

Flamenco was born in Cádiz, however Málaga and its surrounding villages on the coast and in the mountains were a hotspot of Flamenco. Here unique Flamenco music developed, like the Malagueña, the Abandolao, influenced by the bandeloros, the smugglers, or the Verdiales that only exist in the mountains of Málaga. Famous singers emerged from Vélez Málaga, like Juan Breva.

The echoes of the past will fill the air, Arabs, gypsies, smugglers. We will hear instruments unique for Málaga like the lute or the banderillo or castanets. Come and join us for a wonderful evening of authentic local Flamenco! Sung, danced and played by the wonderful Dance company of Antonio Guerra who treated us to a stunning performance last season.

It will be narrated in English by Helen Sijsling.

Lecture date: April 7th 2020(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

Dame Zaha Hadid

Anthea Streeter
NB. This is the first Tuesday of the month.
Before her untimely death in 2016, Dame Zaha Hadid was one of the most distinguished architects in the world. She was also a talented designer. As well as receiving numerous awards and honours, she received the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 2004; the UK's most prestigious architectural award, the RIBA Stirling Prize, in 2010 and 2011; and the Royal Gold Medal in 2015. In 2012 she was made a Dame for services to architecture.

Zaha Hadid’s work is exciting because she developed a new form of architecture: she set architecture free by rejecting 90 degree angles. Her early abstract paintings are of particular interest because in them she began to create her visionary world where there is no definition, lines converge, and gravity disappears – all conceived before the advent of advanced computer software. From her early sharp-angled buildings she developed a fluid architecture, where floors, ceilings, walls - and even furniture - all form part of the overall design. Thus many of her later structures are extruded to the most extreme organic shapes in what she called a “seemless fluidity”.
The lecture tells the story of this pre-eminent architect. We move around the world to look at some of her completed works, including her most famous building in the UK, the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics in 2012, as well as unexecuted designs. Members who have a keen interest in cutting-edge design will be mesmerised by the daring yet brilliant structures of Dame Zaha Hadid.


Lecture date: May 5th 2020(18:00 in the Cultural Centre, Nerja)

The Guggenheims: a dynasty of art collectors

Andrew Hopkins PhD
NB. This is the first Tuesday of the month.

Peggy Guggenheim
What other family in the twentieth century managed to amass such extraordinary art collections, and design or purchase such astounding buildings to display their collections? Compared to the Frick and Gulbenkian, individual collections displayed in single museums, the Guggenheim name was transformed in the late twentieth century into a brand, some would say a chain. With celebrated museums in New York, with the flagship Solomon R. Guggenheim landmark on Fifth Avenue, together with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection on the Grand Canal in Venice, the family foundation did not stop there. They commissioned the celebrated building by Frank Gehry in Bilbao, which opened in 1997, and which is now considered a masterpiece of modern architecture and design. Other expansion plans have not fared so well, with outposts in Las Vegas and Berlin closing after some years, and new building projects in Vilnius and Helsinki have been abandoned after opposition by residents, who were not persuaded they needed a Guggenheim in their city. This lecture looks at the beginning of both Solomon’s and Peggy’s collections in New York City, with artists they acquired such as Kandinsky and Pollock, and traces the development and expansion of their collections over more than half a century, by which time the Guggenheim name had become synonymous with some of the most inspiring art and museums in the world.