Took my two children to the Fondation Jacques Brel yesterday and was rather bemused by the experience. It cost 5€ a ticket and involved an audio headset that you moved on track by track yourself (rather than being activated by exhibits) which consisted mainly of the voice of Brel's daughter. After sitting on a bench in the reception, listening to the first 5 tracks and being directed to look at photos on the wall, you go through into a room with a film of the sea, then you pass an unlit room which is supposed to evoke a Brel childhood, then past a curtain with a loop of Brel singing (with no sound), then into a rather anonymous area with his notebooks and some other memorabilia on the wall. It's always interesting to see a songwriter's notebooks, but no real thought had been put into the display, nor into providing any additional information or context. The next room was done up to look a bit like a backstage area and had some interesting audio clips on speaker phones, mainly, it seemed to me, trying to explain and justify his relationship with Belgium. The final room (which you had to wait for a green light every 10 minutes to enter), was made to look like a recording studio and had a couple of short films, with Brel as director. Then out through a curtain back into reception.
It's always lovely hearing Jacques Brel's voice, and there was a bit of interesting information to be gleaned here, but what an opportunity lost. There was no sense of atmosphere and it was a remarkably sterile experience walking through. I'd read reviews of an evocative experience, about taking an old lift up to step through rooms where all the paraphernalia of a life on the road was laid out and a feeling of always having just missed the man himself, with half burnt cigarettes in ashtrays, sheet music on tables with a baguette nest to it etc. So it must once have been interesting, but has been watered down for some reason. Maybe they'll change it back again, but in the meantime, aside from the chance to visit the wonderful Cafe Novo opposite, there are much better ways to spend you money in Brussels.
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