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Arts

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Alex Salmond has already lost — if the Edinburgh Festival is anything to go by

Arts feature

Scotland’s on a knife-edge. Like all referendum-watchers at the Edinburgh Festival I grabbed a ticket for The Pitiless Storm, a drama about independence, which attracts big crowds every lunchtime at the Assembly Rooms. The play draws its inspiration from the… Read more

'Ashtray' Annie, 1956 Photo: Getty

‘Ashtray’ Annie Fischer was a piano giant. Why didn’t more people realise this?

Music

This year marks the centenary of a pianist whom London orchestral players nicknamed ‘Ashtray Annie’. Only at the keyboard did she have a cigarette out of her mouth. Annie Fischer (1914–1995) was one of those female pianists who, despite their… Read more

‘Futurist Motif’, 1920, by Gerardo Dottori

Futurism’s escape to the country

Exhibitions

Futurism, with its populist mix of explosive rhetoric (burn all the museums!) and resolutely urban experience and emphasis on speed, was a force to be reckoned with (at least in Italy) for longer than one might imagine. It was launched… Read more

Composer Giacomo Puccini; scenes from performances of Tosca in 1956 and 2010 Photo: Getty

In defence of Puccini

Opera

During my opera-going lifetime the most sensational change in the repertoire has, of course, been the immense expansion of the baroque repertoire, with Monteverdi, Rameau and above all Handel being not only revived but also seen now as mainstays in… Read more

Inhuman being: Scarlett Johansson as Lucy

Lucy: the shoot-outs, car chases and mysteries of the universe

Cinema

Here’s an idea for an article: The Tree of Life (2011) is the most influential film of the past decade. There’s quite a strong case to be made. Everything from car adverts to Hollywood blockbusters seems to have a touch… Read more

Pushing 70, but not very hard: Anne Archer as Jane Fonda

An innocent graduate of Operation Yewtree, Jim Davidson, dazzles in Edinburgh

Theatre

Let’s start with a nightmare. Wendy Wason, an Edinburgh comedienne, travelled to LA last year accompanied by her husband, who promptly succumbed to a fainting fit. Wason called an ambulance, unaware she was in a hospital car park, and was… Read more

Adeel Akhtar plays Wilson Wilson in Utopia

Eye-gouging within the first half-hour: the edgy new rules of TV drama

Television

Where is Jessica Hyde? If those words mean nothing to you then I have some excellent news. If not, then you’ll already be aware that I have failed you totally. And not for the first time, either. I was about… Read more

A technician mends the broken glass of a landing light at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, during the Berlin Airlift, 1949 Photo: Getty

Ambridge recovers its sense of humour — finally

Radio

‘Isn’t that charming!’ Carol declares at the height of the great Home Farm cocktail party, after being subjected to Jennifer’s somewhat over-enthusiastic description of her wine storage unit. Just three words but such a lot of meaning. Carol Tregorran’s resurrection… Read more

Shock-Dog-Teracotta-1780-Anne-Damar

Anne Seymour Damer: the female Bernini?

Culture notes

Anne Seymour Damer (1748–1828) was virtually the only female sculptor working in Britain during her lifetime. Contemporary artists may have dismissed her as a well-connected dilettante with curiosity value as a woman. But her most important connection was her uncle,… Read more

Shinkansen: one of the most powerful symbols of modern Japan

My addiction to the bullet train

Arts feature

In 1963, Dr Richard Beeching, an ICI director with a PhD in physics, a qualification that clearly boondoggled his credulous political patrons, published a government report called ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’. It identified 8,000km of painstakingly created track for… Read more

Natasia Demetriou

The best of the Edinburgh Fringe

Theatre

Rain whimpers from Edinburgh’s skies. The sodden tourists look like aliens in their steamed-up ponchos as they scurry and rustle across the gleaming cobblestones. Performers touting for business chirrup their overtures with desperate gaiety. Thousands of them are here. Tens… Read more

Daft, and sensationally innocent: the Inbetweeners down under

The Inbetweeners 2 is as filthy as a teenage boy – and it's hilarious

Cinema

The first Inbetweeners film made £45 million at the box office, and was such an unexpected smash there was always going to be a second one, which is fair enough. It is based on the TV sitcom (Channel 4, 2008–2010),… Read more

‘The Sutherland Cup’ by Angie Lewin

The perfect excuse to get out all the best Ravilious china

Exhibitions

A day trip to the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne is a summer pleasure, and two concurrent shows are proving a considerable draw, with their focus on design and applied art. Designing the Everyday is in some ways just an… Read more

‘Llyn Cau, Cader Idris’, 1765–67, by Richard Wilson

How Richard Wilson made Wales beautiful

Exhibitions

‘I recollect nothing so much as a solemn — bright — warm — fresh landscape by Wilson, which swims in my brain like a delicious dream,’ wrote Constable of his encounter with the Welsh artist’s ‘Tabley House, Cheshire’ after he… Read more

Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, Solo for Two

Ballet’s super couple should stick to the classical repertoire

Dance

Last week, the feast of long-awaited dance events on offer echoed bygone days when London life was dominated by the strategically engineered appearances of rival ballet stars at the same time in different venues. At the London Coliseum, Solo for… Read more

Charlotte Salomen

Strauss and Hofmannsthal deserve better from the Salzburg Festival

Opera

The Salzburg Festival’s reputation might largely be one of cultural conservatism, but it made an impressive commitment to new works when it announced in 2011 that it had commissioned four operas, to be unveiled at the rate of one a… Read more

The new journalism: Vice leaves the rest of the West’s media standing

Scoops, snark and jihad – this is Vice News's war

Television

War can reshape the medium of television. The First Gulf War was a landmark moment in broadcasting: CNN had reporters in Baghdad when the first bombs fell, no one else did, America was riveted and the concept of 24-hour news… Read more

6 Music's success can be attributed to seasons from Bob Dylan, visitations from Jarvis Cocker, Alex James and more recently Iggy Pop

Why is Radio 3 still leaderless?

Radio

It’s happened almost by stealth but the number of listeners to 6 Music has now overtaken Radio 3, creeping up to 1.89 million per week (just .05 million more than the classical-music station). Actually the margin between them is probably… Read more

Urs-Fischer-Skinny-Sunrise-Nylind

Less cuddly, more creepy: The Human Factor at the Hayward Gallery

Culture notes

Jeff Koons’s ‘Bear and Policeman’ has been used to advertise the Hayward Gallery’s latest show The Human Factor (until 7 September). But don’t be fooled; this exploration of the human figure is neither cute nor cuddly. It includes photos of… Read more

Wynton Marsalis: ‘The pressure of playing in public makes it all for real’

'They took me in like I was their son': Wynton Marsalis on jazz's great tradition

Arts feature

At the end of his performance at the Barbican with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Wynton Marsalis made a little speech. The next piece, he announced, was a number that Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers used to play. Marsalis then… Read more

Latitude Festival 2010: Day 1

My daughter wants to know why you haven't heard of the Jayhawks

Music

One of the many delightful aspects of having children is that you can get them to do things you are too old, lazy or important to do yourself. My disinclination to attend any sort of music festival, owing to a… Read more

Anja Harteros (Leonora) and Vitalij Kowaljow (Marchese di Calatrava) in‘La forza del destino’

Jonas Kaufmann's illness, a muddled production – nothing can stop Bavarian State Opera's La forza del destino

Opera

Rather than brave the boos and the first reprise of Frank Castorf’s half-hearted Ring at Bayreuth, I decided to pay a visit to Munich and catch the last two days of its annual opera festival. Less of a festival, as… Read more

‘Equivalents for the Megaliths’, 1935, by Paul Nash

A lost opportunity to show John Nash at his best

Exhibitions

John Northcote Nash (1893–1977) was the younger brother of Paul Nash (1889–1946), and has been long overshadowed by Paul, though they started their careers on a relatively even footing. The crucible of WW1 changed them: afterwards Paul became an art-world… Read more

Doctor in the house: Alex Brendemühl as Josef Mengele

Allergic to blockbusters? See Wakolda

Cinema

Wakolda is not a sunny film for a sunny day, just so you’re aware, but as there is so little else around — August is a hopeless month for films; August is a dumping ground for the sub-par — you… Read more

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet: a Mariinsky masterclass

Dance

According to some textbooks, one thing the fathers of Soviet choreography hastened to remove from ballet was that awkward-looking language of gestures generally referred to as ‘ballet mime’. Which explains why most Russian versions of Swan Lake lack familiar mime… Read more

Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar named Desire

Sorry, Gillian Anderson, but you've caught the wrong Streetcar

Theatre

Streetcar. One word is enough to conjure an icon. Tennessee Williams’s finest play, written in the 1940s, is about a fallen woman trying to salvage her reputation before madness overwhelms her. All its horror and tension rely on the Victorian… Read more

Gomorrah, Sky Atlantic

Gomorrah is gangsters without glamour – but it's still not as scary as Dance Moms

Television

Gomorrah (Sky Atlantic, Monday), the new, must-see Mafioso series, started promisingly. We met two hoods — one young, shaven-headed, good-looking; one weary, brow-beaten, middle-aged — filling up at a petrol station in Naples, an unfamiliar (to me anyway) setting that… Read more

Radio

Two lessons in listening

Radio

Our hearing is the first of our senses to develop while we are in the womb. It’s the first connection we make to the life around us, and to other people. In a new series of The Listeners on Radio… Read more