Leeds and other venues
Giulio Cesare in Egitto
Of around 30 operas that Handel wrote in Italian for the London stage in the 1720s and 1730s, Giulio Cesare (1724) is probably the most performed and the most dramatic. It also includes some of the composer's finest vocal music, notably the supremely seductive arias he gave Cleopatra and the triumphant finale celebrating her love for Caesar. This new production by Opera North, in repertory at the Grand Theatre in Leeds from 14 January, stars Pamela Helen Stephen as the Roman general (a part originally written for the castrato Senesino) and Sarah Tynan as the Egyptian queen. It will later go on tour to the Theatre Royal in Nottingham (23 February), The Lowry in Salford Quays (1 March), the Theatre Royal in Newcastle (9 March) and finally the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin (14 and 16 March).
The Incredible Lightness of Being: Jiri Pelcl - Czech Design
Leading designer Jiri Pelcl first attracted attention in 1987 when he founded the radical Atika design group in reaction to the restrictive canons imposed by the socialist state in his native Czechoslovakia. His furniture, interiors, products and architectural designs have been widely acclaimed and feature in the current show, Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990, at the Victoria and Albert Museum. A former rector of the Prague Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design, Pelcl is now a visiting professor at the University of Brighton, which is hosting this stunning exhibition of his recent work (until 20 February). A linked symposium titled "Czech Design - Independent, Free and Democratic?" will be held in the university's Sallis Benney Theatre on 20 January.
The Man in the Middle
How could a self-educated Australian "hacktivist" radically alter our perceptions of the world? Whether one regards him as a hero, a misguided idealist or "the most dangerous man in the world", WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's determination to pursue the truth at all costs initiated a global chess game involving the highest echelons of international politics. The Man in the Middle is itself a "Wikiplay" sourced entirely from the public domain, though edited and reimagined by playwright Ron Elisha. First staged in Sydney last year under the title Stainless Steel Rat, it now receives its European premiere at London's Theatre 503 (until 4 February), with the production directed by Lucy Skilbeck.
London Art Fair 2012
Now in its 24th year, the London Art Fair is firmly established as the country's largest fair devoted to modern British and contemporary art. More than 100 major galleries from as far afield as South Africa, Canada and the US, as well as France, Romania and the UK, will be showing their wares at the Business Design Centre in Islington from 18 to 22 January. Prices for works are likely to range from £50 to more than £1 million. Alongside the main fair, the Art Projects section will feature emerging artists and galleries presenting solo shows, curated group displays, editions and large-scale installations. Meanwhile, The New Alchemists: Contemporary Photographers Transcending the Print exhibition brings together 50 works, many of them for sale, all using techniques that adorn, transform, subvert or deface the photographic print.
Alberto Burri: Form and Matter
The Italian abstract painter and sculptor Alberto Burri (1915-95) is renowned for a career of constant experimentation that led to a radical and highly personal reinvention of artistic language. After serving as a doctor in the Second World War, he was interned as a prisoner of war in Texas, where he began producing figurative work. He soon shifted to the sacking, metal, plastic (often burned), wood, Celotex and ceramic pieces for which he is best known, and then eventually to a form of land art. This exhibition at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art (13 January to 7 April) offers an incisive overview of Burri's creative development from 1947 to 1987.