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👋 އައްސަލާމު ޢަލައިކުމް*
Welcome to Tuesday, where more hostages and prisoners are expected to be exchanged as the Gaza ceasefire is extended for 48 hours, Indian rescuers are ready to extract the 41 workers trapped in a tunnel since Nov. 12, and the first green transatlantic flight takes off. Meanwhile, Manuel Brug in German daily Die Welt looks at how the emergence of trans performers and storylines in modern opera follows in the genre’s long history of playing with the idea of gender.
[**Assalaamu alaikum - Dhivehi, Maldives]
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• More hostages to be freed, Gaza truce extended for 48 hours: Ten hostages are expected to be released on Tuesday and another 10 on Wednesday in exchange for 60 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, after Israel and Hamas agreed on a two-day extension of the ceasefire agreed last week. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return this week to the Middle East with the goal to try to secure the release of all hostages kidnapped by Hamas.
• Snowstorms in Ukraine leave 10 dead: Icy winds and relentless snowfall have left at least 10 people dead and 23 injured in snowstorms that swept Ukraine since Sunday, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said. The storm also disrupted power supplies and more than 1,500 vehicles had to be rescued.
• Indian rescuers set to free trapped tunnel workers: After drilling through rocks and debris, Indian rescuers say they are ready to extract one by one the 41 workers who have been trapped for 17 days in a collapsed tunnel in the Himalayas. The workers will be freed via a 90cm diameter pipe inserted through the rubble of the collapsed tunnel.
• Niger junta revokes law aimed at curbing migration to Europe: Niger’s military government has repealed a 2015 anti-migration law that curbed the smuggling of migrants through the country into Europe. The revocation of the law further complicates the tense relationship between Niger and the European Union which slapped sanctions on the West African nation after a military coup deposed its democratically elected president in July.
• UK’s Sunak cancels meeting with Greek counterpart amid Parthenon marbles row: Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has criticized the decision of his British counterpart Rishi Sunak to abruptly cancel a planned meeting in which they were due to discuss long-contested artifacts. These include the Elgin Marbles, a collection of ancient Greek sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens that Athens wants Britain to return.
• Australia to ban single-use vape imports: Australia’s Health Minister announced the country will ban imports of disposable vapes from January 2024, as part of a crackdown on nicotine addiction among the youth. Australia also plans to introduce legislation to ban the manufacture, advertising or supply of disposable vapes next year. Read more about the evolution of anti-smoking laws around the world.
• First transatlantic flight using 100% sustainable fuel to take off: The first transatlantic flight by a large passenger plane fully powered by sustainable aviation fuels (SAF), and operated by Virgin Atlantic, will take off from London Heathrow on Tuesday morning and travel to New York's JFK airport.
The regional edition of The Hindustan Times for Jammu and Kashmir covers the ongoing efforts to rescue the 41 workers that have been trapped in a tunnel in a collapsed tunnel in the Himalayas for the past 17 days. Rescue teams have had to resort to “digging by hand” after high-powered machines failed, but are now said to have broken through to the trapped workers.
The Saturday night shooting that injured three Palestinian students in Vermont is being investigated as a religiously motivated attack, particularly as it comes amid the war between Israel and Hamas. Reports note that at least two of the three students were wearing keffiyehs, the traditional Middle East headdress. Though it has come to represent the struggle for Palestinian nationhood, the origin of the cotton article was protection from sun and sand. According to J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, the word كُوفِيَّة (romanized as keffiyeh or kufiyya) shares its roots with the Italian “cuffia” (bonnet or bathing cap) and English “coif.”
Bravo! Brava! Opera's overdue embrace of trans performers and storylines
Opera has played with ideas of gender since its earliest days. Now the first openly trans performers are taking to the stage, and operas explicitly exploring trans identities are beginning to emerge, reports Manuel Brug in German daily Die Welt.
⚧️ What does it mean for an opera singer to come out as a trans person, when playing with gender has been such an integral part of the repertoire for centuries? When the Vienna State Opera staged Olga Neuwirth’s Orlando in 2019, based on Virginia Woolf’s iconic gender-fluid protagonist, the New York-based trans performer Justin Vivian Bond played Orlando as an androgynous child and a nightclub singer. Even in Italian opera houses, which are thought to be more conservative, trans performers have played the flamboyant comic speaking role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment.
📣 So far, the shift has been confined largely to minor roles. But baritones like Lucia Lucas and Sam Taskinen, who live as women in their daily lives, are also seeking to embrace their female identity on stage. Lucas says uncompromisingly, “I’m trans. I don’t want to perpetuate any cliches. I want to be taken seriously as an artist.” On stage she still performs male roles with gusto, and she has even played the greatest lothario of all, Don Giovanni, in her native USA — in traditionally redneck Oklahoma of all places.
❓ Are the parameters changing for queer performers in traditionally puritanical America? For starters, there is a blurring of gender identities: does the man singing onstage with a female voice identify as a trans man in his daily life, and does the baritone who plays male roles live as a trans woman? Openly trans stars are still exceptions, and European opera houses are seemingly beginning to discover them only now.
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