25 things to look forward to in 2012

 

From James Joyce to the Wii U, there’s lots to look forward to. Here, in no particular order, is our critics’ choice

1 ‘The Sacred Modernist: Josef Albers as a Catholic Artist’

Glucksman Gallery, Cork

The Sacred Modernistis an intriguing look at this 20th-century master of abstraction. As well as early sketches of country churches and later paintings with specific religious themes, the show features splendid glass assemblages. The highlight is the unveiling of the Rosa Mystica, a stained-glass window that Albers made for St Michael’s Church in his hometown of Bottrop, Germany, which was destroyed during the second World War. The window is being reconstructed for the exhibition. The accompanying publication has essays by the writer Colm Tóibín, the abbot Mark Patrick Hederman and the director of the Albers Foundation, Nicholas Fox-Weber. See the show at the Glucksman from April 6th. glucksman.org

2 Let’s Talk About Sam

Cork Opera House

Plans are in train for a March weekend devoted to the life and work of Samuel Beckett. Cork Opera House is curating a series of events over St Patrick’s weekend; the programme will be a mixture of performances and discussion of the Nobel-winning writer. Confirmed acts include Gare St Lazare Players presenting their take on the The End, First Loveand the Beckett Trilogy. Other expected events include an evening of music around Beckett’s work and a look at Beckett’s radio work. Other institutions will contribute to visual-art elements of the programme. This is expected to be the first of a series of annual events at the Cork theatre aimed at celebrating the life and work of recognised Irish artists. corkoperahouse.ie

3 EVA International

Limerick

With a new director expected to be announced shortly, the EVA International biennial exhibition of visual arts returns to Limerick and relaunches next year. It will be curated by Annie Fletcher, curator of exhibitions at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. The event runs from May until August, and an open call for submissions runs until January 31st. The event will be housed in the redeveloped City Gallery in Pery Square, which is a €1.2 million redevelopment of the existing facility. The EVA did not take place in 2011 for reasons linked to funding, but it returns next year with a 12-week programme of exhibitions and events including a project to re-create older EVA commissions and works. eva.ie

4 Van Morrison

O2, Dublin

Van Morrison casts a huge shadow over Irish music, yet where has he been in recent years? This most reclusive of major-name performers keeps his powder dry until he has something to say (or promote). We’re guessing he has a new album out, which is why he’s playing his first Dublin gig in more than 10 years, on February 3rd. We’re also guessing that at least half the audience will be there to hear old material. All bets are off as to how this will turn out – like Bob Dylan, Morrison is a venerated artist whose live shows can be transcendent or mediocre.

5 Opera at the Grand Canal

Opera in Dublin seems set to spend another year in the doldrums, with the Arts Council’s new production and project awards unlikely to fill the gap left by the demise of Opera Ireland. The Grand Canal Theatre continues to fill part of the gap, and in March it will present two productions from Opera North, in Leeds, three nights of Puccini’s Madama Butterflyand two (with much lower ticket prices) of Handel’s Giulio Cesare, both directed by Tim Albery (Tuesday, March 13th to Saturday 17th). Before that, NI Opera presents a four-stop tour of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw,directed by Oliver Mears, which will visit Newtownabbey, Coleraine, Omagh and Belfast (Friday, March 2nd to Tuesday 20th). And Annelies Miskimmon’s production of Mozart’s Magic Flutefor Opera Theatre Company continues its tour between January 26th and February 18th.

6 Elvis Costello and the Imposters

O2, Dublin

As befits someone with the nickname the Beloved Entertainer, Elvis Costello is bringing over from the US his acclaimed Revolver Tour. We get the reference to his Liverpudlian background, but this revolver has a twist, if not a twirl. The show, on May 9th, is the return of the Spinning Songbook, a vastly enjoyable concept Costello previously brought to the Olympia Theatre in Dublin in 1986. Audience members spin a wheel with song names instead of numbers. For all the risk you might imagine could be involved, with Costello’s estimable back catalogue to dig into, this is one safe bet.

7 The Stone Roses

Phoenix Park, Dublin

Everyone loves a comeback – or in the case of The Stones Roses a resurrection (on July 5th). An occurrence such as this particular band getting back together has a hell-freezes-over feel to it. New songs will be previewed – “we’re aiming for classics,” lead vocalist Ian Brown has said – but we all know this summer day isn’t about newbies: it’s about the first album (a bona fide cracker), from start to end. Some facts: following the announcement of the reunion, sales of Stones Roses albums (they released just two) have increased by more than 1,000 per cent; meanwhile, the band’s official website claimed on December 23rd this show has sold out.

8 Wii U

The launch of the Wii U could be crucial for Nintendo. Unveiled at E3 in June, before its launch next year, this has something different for gamers, with high-definition graphics and a touch-screen controller, which will allow users to continue games away from the TV. It’s the first in a new generation of consoles, but it comes at a time of uncertainty for Nintendo. Its 3DS hand-held console hasn’t sold as well as hoped initially, and there are rumours that influential designer Shigeru Miyamoto is planning to take a less pivotal role at the firm, something Nintendo has denied.

9 ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

Christopher Nolan’s epic end to his Batmantrilogy sees Anne Hathaway step into the boots of Catwoman, Tom Hardy become Bane and, of course, Christian Bale return as the gravel-voiced Batman. It’s probably the most anticipated film of 2012, with fans speculating about how Nolan’s dark and expertly crafted trilogy is going to conclude. With trailers and extended trailers that are surfacing at the moment offering some clues, we still have until late July to see how, as the posters put it, “the legend ends”.

10 ‘DruidMurphy’

Town Hall Theatre, Galway

It begins with a faith so rigid that it cannot be eaten away by the Great Hunger. It continues in 1960s Coventry, where an uprooted Irish family is tearing itself apart. And it concludes in a Galway pub where reunited friends seek new beliefs in a disenchanted Ireland. The tragedy of famine, as Tom Murphy saw it, was that “a hungry and demoralised people become silent”. Starting in May, the restorative journey of DruidMurphy, a staging of Tom Murphy’s Famine, Whistle in the Darkand Conversations on a Homecoming, which will tour Ireland, London and the US, is the story of a nation. Essential.

11 ‘Improbable Frequency’

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

Would Thisispopbaby’s Alice in Funderlandever have made it to the Abbey (in March) were it not for Rough Magic’s Improbable Frequency? It seems unlikely. Arthur Riordan and Bell Helicopter’s musical, first seen in 2004 and set to return in March, paved the way for audacity, brilliance and unabashed pleasure, through sheer implausibility. An Irish musical set during the Emergency? Featuring a crossword enthusiast as a hero? With Myles na gCopaleen, John Betjeman, Erwin Schrödinger and a clutch of Nazis among its gallery of characters? For its last Gaiety Theatre commitment, Rough Magic brought Stockard Channing to tamper with The Importance of Being Earnest. Now it is reviving its recent Plaza Suite alongside Riordan’s effervescent satire. Rumours that director Lynne Parker will enlist John Travolta to play Schrödinger are, at present, improbable.

12 ‘Titanic: Blood and Steel’

The BBC miniseries has been filming in Dublin but is set in Belfast as the famous ship is prepared for its maiden – and final – voyage. It has a strong cast – Liam Cunningham, Chris Noth, Neve Campbell – and so many Irish extras you’ll probably spot half your family in it. Supported by the Irish Film Board and coproduced by Irish based Epos films and the Italian De Angelis Group, it is timed for the centenary of the ship’s sinking. With luck it will prove that its creation was as interesting as its destruction.

13 Pan Pan’s ‘A Doll’s House’ and ‘The Tragedy (History) of King Lear’

Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

Strange, wonderful, slightly annoying things happen whenever Pan Pan stages the classics – which it never quite does. Where many directors treat Shakespeare or Sophocles as rugged terrains through which they must find the cleanest trail, Gavin Quinn tends to show us the entire map: the well-trodden paths of performance, the scenic route of striking design, the undiscovered countries of experimentation. Now he turns his attentions to Ibsen’s naturalistic classic A Doll’s House, with the compelling Judith Roddy as Nora. Later in the year – perhaps in Dublin, perhaps in the autumn – comes King Lear, with the inimitable Andrew Bennett as the iconic needy father, or just another Dead White European Male.

14 Bach comes back

While symphony orchestras around the world have been reacquainting themselves with the music of the baroque period, often with baroque specialists, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra has by and large steered clear of the area. Next month, however, the orchestra is making a large foray into Bach, performing the Christmas Oratoriowith the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir under Matthew Halls over two nights (Friday 6th and Saturday 7th, at St Patrick’s Cathedral). Another innovation will be two Sunday-afternoon concerts with Finghin Collins playing Beethoven piano concertos under Alexander Birger (February 26th and March 4th, NCH). Collins will also give the premiere of Deirdre Gribbin’s The Binding of the Yearsin a spectacular end-of-season evening that includes Janacek’s Sinfoniettaand Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overtureunder Alan Buribayev (Friday, May 25th). The Irish Baroque Orchestra explores Bach cantatas and vocal works by Vivaldi (with soprano Susan Hamilton) as well as suites by Telemann in five concerts at the end of January (St Finian’s Lutheran Church, Adelaide Road, Tuesday 24th-Sunday 29th).

15 Florence and the Machine

O2, Dublin

She came out of left field a few years ago and hasn’t left the mainstream since. Florence Welch may rock one way and then the other – today she is the worthy heir of Kate Bush; tomorrow she might be a milder Björk – but there’s a middle ground about her that has touched a nerve with not just Arcade Fire fans. Hence a visit to the O2 on March 2nd, when Florence will undoubtedly highlight the dazzling songs from her latest offering, Ceremonials, and several from her 2009 debut, Lungs.

16 Chamber music

The Borris-based Barrow River Arts Festival is expanding its reach this year by including a concert at Duiske Abbey, in Graiguenamanagh. The festival (Friday, March 2nd to Sunday 4th) will feature the Labèque sisters on two pianos, the Calmus Ensemble, and a programme of Bach and Biber, with the voices of the Calmus Ensemble joining forces with Camerata Kilkenny. The cornucopian West Cork Chamber Music Festival, in Bantry (Friday, June 29th to Saturday, July 7th), features four string quartets, the RTÉ Vanbrugh, Apollon Musagète, Signum and Chiaroscuro, which between them will play works by Arriaga, Bartók, Beethoven, Górecki, Deirdre Gribbin, Thomas Larcher, Mozart, Orff, Krzysztof Penderecki, Schnittke, Schubert, Schulhoff, Schumann, Shostakovich, Szymanowski, Tchaikovsky, Tippett and Webern.

17 Out to Lunch Festival

The success of the Lyric Theatre and the Belfast Festival at Queen’s has brought renewed attention to Belfast, and the city’s cultural year begins with the seventh Out to Lunch Festival. Its Cathedral Quarter will host the festival, even though director Seán Kelly considered putting the 2012 festival on ice. Highlights will include Stephen Rea doing Flann O’Brien, Mercury-nominated Ghostpoet, pop polymath Beth Jeans Houghton, comedian Richard Herring, writer Jon Ronson and cult hero Roy Walker. January 4th to 29th. cqaf.com

18 The Gloaming album

It was short, but The Gloaming’s summer tour was invigorating and potentially seminal, with the music bracing and beautiful in equal measure. The supergroup of sean-nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, fiddle players Martin Hayes and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh, guitarist Dennis Cahill and classically trained pianist Thomas Bartlett grew from sessions at Grouse Lodge Studios, in Westmeath, early this year. From those recordings will come an album, but before that may be a live EP. Their live performances so far have been revelatory, and they play New York’s GlobalFest in January. Future Irish dates are likely to cement them as one of the great forces in Irish music. soundcloud.com/thegloamingmusic

19 ‘Luck’

Once upon a time, HBO was the standard-bearer for great US television. Now, thanks to its own success, it’s one of the crowd – the most lauded drama of the past year, Homeland, is on the cable channel Showtime. However, in Luckit seems to have hit on another potential winner. Revolving around characters hovering at the same horse-racing track, it stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, is written by David Milch ( Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue, Deadwood) and its opening episode is directed by Michael Mann. That’s about as heavyweight as TV comes. A recent preview on HBO garnered praise ahead of the full series, which will be shown here on Sky Atlantic in February.

20 Netflix comes to Ireland

Although it has helped to destroy the video-rental store in the US, Netflix is struggling somewhat over there thanks to rising costs, greater competition, bad decisions and a sense that its international expansion won’t be as lucrative as thought. Yet its arrival in the UK and Ireland marks an important milestone in territories that have been underserved when it comes to movie downloading. Alongside the film options, Irish consumers will also be able to watch new and archived BBC programmes – another important development given the geographic restrictions on the BBC’s iPlayer. Netflix is busy negotiating a string of deals with other movie studios and TV channels. Time will tell whether it will redirect the Irish away from their status as heavy users of illegal downloading sites.

21 Little Green Cars debut album

This Dublin five-piece have been making critics and fans alike swoon with their old-beyond-their-years lyrical prowess, beautiful five-part harmonies, keen musicianship and songs that embed themselves in both psyche and surroundings in an instant. Since releasing the single The John Wayneon Young and Lost Club (the home of Noah the Whale), they’ve moved up a notch, signing to the US label Glassnote Records (Phoenix, Mumford Sons, The Temper Trap, Two Door Cinema Club). Big things are expected of these youngsters over the next 12 months.

22 Mass Effect 3

The past year hasn’t been a bad one for games, and it looks like 2012 is shaping up to be a busy year too. With new titles in the Bioshockand Grand Theft Autoseries, a return for SSX and a new Halo game due, there’s a lot to choose from. But Mass Effect 3is high on most lists of most-wanted games for next year. It brings to an end the story of Commander Shepard in the battle against the Reapers, and is looking like the best Mass Effectyet. If you’ve been playing the series from the start, you can import your game files from the first two chapters, with your previous decisions affecting how the final chapter is played out. Plus, this time, you get integrated multiplayer and Kinect voice control. What more could you want?

23 ‘Hack the City’

From June 22nd until September 7th, the Science Gallery in Dublin will host its flagship exhibition, Hack the City. Putting a call out for hackers, citizen scientists and DIY urban planners, the exhibition will aim to transfer the hacker mentality on to the city, using new technologies and social media, and realising how hacking – in terms of manipulating things and tweaking existing systems to create new possibilities – can be a positive force in an urban environment. It’s one of the most ambitious and energetic gigs from the Science Gallery yet, seeking proposals for mass-participation experiments, apps and performances, creating what almost sounds less like an exhibition and more a festival of ideas.

24 ‘Merlin James: In the Gallery’

Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin

Born in Cardiff in 1960, Merlin James, who shows with the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin, has built up a formidable body of work exploring how painting, within the terms of the western representational tradition, can address an uneasy, fragmented, contemporary reality. This exhibition, from February 3rd to March 28th, and selected by the artist, is a survey spanning some 30 years of work as he has applied himself to traditional genres and painterly strategies with wit and playful inventiveness.

25 James Joyce’s copyright expires

Now that it is 70 years since Joyce’s death, the copyright on his work expires. Previously tightly controlled by his estate, performances of Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses, Finnegans Wakeand his only play, Exiles, will no longer require permission or payment, although there is less clarity on unpublished and posthumous works, as well as letters. A James Joyce symposium at Trinity College Dublin in June will look at the whole area. In the meantime, expect a flood of adaptations of Joyce’s work.