Barcelona Opera House Reopens With Concert for 2,292 Plants
A Barcelona opera house played its first concert since mid-March to an unusual audience: 2,292 plants.
The "Concert for the Biocene" at the Liceu opera house came the day after Spain finally lifted an emergency order put in place to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Reuters reported. A string quartet played Giacomo Puccini's "Chrysanthemum," bowing respectfully before and after to its leafy audience.
"Nature advanced to occupy the spaces we snatched from it," Eugenio Ampudio, the conceptual artist behind the unique concert, said during a rehearsal Sunday, according to Reuters. "Can we extend our empathy? Let's begin with art and music, in a great theatre, by inviting nature in."
Human listeners were invited in too via a livestream.
The concert organizers are also sharing the event in another way.
"After the concert, the plants will be donated with a certificate from the artist to 2,292 people who have been on the healthcare frontlines, the toughest front in a battle unprecedented for our generations, in recognition of their work," a Liceu press release explained.
The plants came from local nurseries and will be given to workers at the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona in particular.
Spain has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, with 28,323 deaths and 246,272 cases to date, according to Reuters. As it emerges from lockdown, theaters and cinemas are being allowed to reopen with limits on audience size, NPR reported.
Monday's unique concert was conceived as a prelude to the opera's 2020-2021 season.
"The Liceu, one of the largest and most important opera halls in the world, thus welcomes and leads a highly symbolic act that defends the value of art, music and nature as a letter of introduction to our return to activity," the opera house wrote.
The concert also embodies Liceu artistic director Víctor García de Gomar's goal of forging dialogue between the venue and the visual arts. It is a collaboration between the Liceu, Ampudia, the Max Estrella Gallery and the curator Blanca de La Torre. As part of the collaboration, Ampudia took pictures and a video during the performance that will be added to the Contemporary Art Collection of "la Caixa."
"After a strange, painful period, the creator, the Liceu's artistic director and the curator Blanca de la Torre offer us a different perspective for our return to activity, a perspective that brings us closer to something as essential as our relationship with nature," the press release said.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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