The beautiful, golden image on the cover of the December issue of Limelight shows angels playing musical instruments. It is from a triptych by Dutch artist Hans Memling, painted between 1483 and 1494, and has a definite Christmas feel about it. However, we are using it to relate to a fascinating feature called Evanescence and Permanence: Music, Religion and Immortality by Carole M. Cusack, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney.

The cover of Limelight's December 2020 magazine
Subscribe to Limelight
by Sunday 15 November to receive a copy

In 1974, the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker won the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Denial of Death. Becker argued that art and religion are ‘immortality systems’, which help people deal with, and even transcend, their fear of death. Professor Cusack explores the close connection between religion, music and cultural rituals, and looks at what that means in the West today where organised religion is in decline, music has fragmented into numerous different genres, and rock bands can inspire as much devotion as sacred beliefs.

Mahima Macchione, a doctoral student at King’s College London, who is working on the history of opera in Imperial Brazil, explores the extraordinary success of the ground-breaking Festival de Ópera do Paraná in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. Launched in 2015 by pioneering Artistic Director Gehad Hajar, the festival has attracted a much wider and younger audience by performing not just in theatres but on buses, in streets, in vegetable markets and in shanty towns, as well as in smaller towns around the state of Paraná. What’s more every event is free. Macchione reveals how Hajar pulled it off.

Featured in the December issue

Jane Albert talks with a number of leading Australian writers and directors about adapting literature for the theatre. Why do it? And how do you honour the original writer yet make it work as drama? She focuses on several new productions: Kip Williams’ adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray for the Sydney Theatre Company, Kendall Feaver’s adaptation of Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career for Belvoir, Tim McGarry’s adaptation of Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe for Queensland Theatre and the Brisbane Festival, and Kate Mulvany’s adaptation of Ruth Park’s Playing Beatie Bow for STC.

We also run an extract from Alex Ross’s ambitious new book Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music in which he looks at Wagner, women and love, and the composer’s impact on feminist thought.

Alice Giles shares her insights on the harp in our Playing Up column, ABC Classic presenter Damien Beaumont reveals the sounds he loves in My Music, and Phillip Scott lets rip at the dominance of musical masterpieces in Sacred Cow. There’s also Guy Noble’s monthly Soapbox, as well as the buzz on live performances around the country, arts news and reviews, and the latest broadcast guides.

The December issue of Limelight will be available to subscribers online from Monday 23 November and in select book stores from 30 November.

Subscribe today to save up to 36% on our cover price and get free access to our digital archive of over 10,000 articles, including features, interviews, columns, reviews and the latest news. To receive a hard-copy of the December 2020 issue you will need to subscribe before Sunday 15 November, 11:59pm.

Read our new magazine online