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The Forum

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Podcast The Forum

The Forum


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  • Making scents: The story of perfume
    Throughout history, fragrance has been used to scent both the body and our surroundings. With just one drop, perfume has the potential to stir memories, awaken the senses and even influence how we feel about ourselves. But what’s the story behind this liquid luxury in a bottle, now found on the shelves of bathrooms and department stores worldwide? In this programme, Bridget Kendall and guests explore the modern history of perfume, including its flowering in France and the explosive chemical discoveries that helped to make fine fragrance what it is today. They also explore perfume’s ancient roots and ask: what’s in a name? Bridget is joined by scientist and critic Luca Turin, writer and curator Lizzie Ostrom and the perfumer Thomas Fontaine. Also featuring William Tullett and James McHugh. (Photo: Perfume bottle and flowers. Credit: Brian Hagiwara/Getty Images)
  • Eleonora Duse: The first great modern actress
    Eleonora Duse was an actress ahead of her time. As a performer in the late 19th century when elaborate gestures, exotic costumes and lavish decors were the norm, Eleonora Duse stunned audiences with her truthfulness and intense absorption in the characters she played. She wore no make-up, you could see her blush or turn pale, she was a master of subtle body language and vocal modulation, and her aim was to eliminate the self and become her characters. Today she is often credited with having inspired modern acting, and the Russian theatre director Stanislavsky saw her as the perfect actress, and was greatly influenced by her when he created his acting method. Born in 1858 in what is now northern Italy, Eleonora Duse started acting at the age of four years old with her family’s touring theatre troupe. By her twenties, working as both a theatre manager and a performer, she began to achieve worldwide popularity, travelling all over the world, from South America to Russia to Egypt. She was soon acknowledged as one of the greatest actresses of her generation and her independent lifestyle turned her into an early feminist icon. So what was the secret of her genius and why is she largely forgotten today? And with no recordings of her voice, how do we know she was such a great performer? Joining Bridget Kendall is Dr Anna Sica, Professor of Theatre at the University of Palermo in Italy, author of The Murray Edwards Duse Collection, and D’Amore e D’Arte, the letters written to Duse from her Russian lover Alexander Wolkoff, soon to be published in English. Professor Paul Fryer, the co-editor of an essay collection on Eleonora Duse and Cenere (Cenere is the Italian word for Ashes, the title of the silent film Duse made in 1916, and the only record of Duse actually performing). Paul Fryer also directs the Stanislavsky research centre at the University of Leeds. And Dr Enza de Francisci, lecturer in Translation studies at the University of Glasgow, who specialises in the critical reception of Duse’s plays, and is the author of A 'New' Woman in Verga and Pirandello: From Page to Stage. The reader is Cecilia Gragnani. Produced by Anne Khazam for the BBC World Service. (Photo: Eleonora Duse in “Lady of the Camelias” by Alexandre Dumas Fils. Credit: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
  • La Malinche: Mexico's great 'traitor'
    In Mexico the name La Malinche has become synonymous with treachery and betrayal - it even forms one of the country’s most vicious insults. Some have described its owner, an indigenous slave who became the interpreter and mistress of conquistador Hernán Cortés, as the most hated woman in Mexico’s history. But by helping the Spanish topple the Aztecs in the early sixteenth century was she really guilty of selling out her own people, or simply doing everything she could to survive? Might we credit her with limiting the lives lost in the bloody conflict – one she knew her people could not hope to win? Bridget Kendall explores the little-known life, and hotly-contested legacy of one of the most controversial figures in Latin American history, and the role she played in the meeting of the Old World and the New. We hear how La Malinche’s story, and motives, have been re-interpreted over the last 500 years, and learn why she remains important in discussions of national identity, gender, culture and politics in Mexico to this day. Producer: Simon Tulett Contributors: Camilla Townsend, distinguished professor of history at Rutgers University, USA, and author of ‘Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico’; Dr Fernando Cervantes, a historian of early modern Spain and Spanish America at the University of Bristol, UK, and author of ‘Conquistadores: A New History’; Sandra Messinger Cypess, professor emerita of Latin American literature at the University of Maryland, USA, and author of ‘La Malinche in Mexican Literature: From History to Myth’. (Picture: La Malinche – a Mexican engraving, 1885, from the library of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain. Credit: Prisma/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • Taras Shevchenko: The slave who became a symbol of Ukrainian independence
    There are hundreds of monuments to the poet and painter Taras Shevchenko not just in Ukraine but all over the world. It is hard to overstate the importance of Shevchenko for most Ukrainians. For them he is not just the national poet who breathed new life into the Ukrainian language but a symbol of their country’s independence. His words kept the national spirit alive during the decades of forced Russification in the 19th Century and they found renewed resonance during the 2014 Maidan uprising. But Shevchenko's work is less well known beyond eastern Europe. To remedy this Bridget Kendall is joined by Ukrainian writers and literary scholars Olha Poliukhovych from the National University of Kyiv - Mohyla Academy and Mykhailo Nazarenko from Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, and by professor of Slavonic studies at Vienna University Michael Moser. The reader is Ivantiy Novak. (Photo: A monument to Taras Shevchenko by Igor Grechanyk in Kyiv, Ukraine. Credit: Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto/Corbis/Getty Images)
  • The unstoppable orange
    Oranges have long represented love, wealth and status - since they originated in South East Asia, around the 8th Century BCE. The orange tree's ability to carry fruit and blossom at the same time made it a symbol of fertility and purity in religious art and painting, and the intoxicating fragrance of the blossom, the perfect sphere of the mature fruit and its sensuously refreshing taste inspired writers and artists, as well as growers to produce ever more spectacular creations. With the advent of artificial refrigeration in the 19th Century, oranges then became big business and widely available to all. By the mid 1880’s it’s said more than 2.5 million cases of Italian citrus fruit arrived in New York every year. Today, while oranges are enjoyed by many, their production also has a bitter side – the sad plight of many of the orange pickers, and the impact of the orange juice industry affecting the diversity of orange trees and profit margins of the growers. Joining Bridget Kendall is Cristina Mazzoni, professor of Romance Languages and Cultures at the University of Vermont, and the author of Golden Fruit: A Cultural History of Oranges in Italy; the food and travel writer Clarissa Hyman, who has written Oranges: A Global History; and Dr Alissa Hamilton, the author of Squeezed: What You Don’t Know About Orange Juice. Producer: Anne Khazam (Photo: Orange cross section on top of a pile of oranges. Credit: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)

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