Arts

Beat generation: the indispensable Ringo Starr in 1964

Ringo's no joke. He was a genius and the Beatles were lucky to have him

Arts feature

‘He was the most influential Beatle,’ Yoko Ono recently claimed. When Paul and John first spotted him out in Hamburg, in his suit and beard, sitting ‘drinking bourbon and seven’, they were amazed. ‘This was, like, a grown-up musician,’ thought… Read more

William Bracewell as Louis XIV in The King Dances. Photo: Bill Cooper

The Sun King deserves better than this silly cabaret from Birmingham Royal Ballet

Dance

It’s a comfort that the creation of a new ballet inspired by French court entertainment can still happen in the amnesiac ballet country that Britain has become. The idea of making a modern-day meditation on the first ballet — Louis… Read more

‘Untitled (Tilly Losch)’, c.1935–38, by Joseph Cornell

Poetic or pretentious? Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust at the Royal Academy reviewed

Exhibitions

Someone once asked Joseph Cornell who was his favourite abstract artist of his time. It was a perfectly reasonable question to put to a man who numbered Piet Mondrian, as well as other masters of modernism, among his acquaintance. But,… Read more

Patti Smith introduces the Dalai Lama to the crowd (Photo: Getty)

Michael Eavis has brought more joy to more people than almost any Englishman alive

Music

I had meant to write a dispassionate account of this year’s Glastonbury, really I had. But I’m afraid my plans were ruined by a chance encounter on the final day with my old friend Michael Eavis — the distinctively bearded… Read more

John Osborn as Arnold in the Royal Opera's controversial new William Tell. Photo: ROH/ Clive Barda

The gang rape was the least offensive thing about Royal Opera's new William Tell

Opera

There’s no such thing as a tasteful rape scene — or there certainly shouldn’t be. It’s an act of grossest violation, of primal violence. It’s also a reality — and a growing one at that — of contemporary warfare, a… Read more

The Seagull: Sabrina Bartlett as Nina (Photo Johan Persson)

The Seagull needs a roof to stop Chekhov's subtleties flying off

Theatre

A new Seagull lands in Regent’s Park. Director Matthew Dunster has lured Chekhov’s classic into a leafy corner of north London to see if it needs an upgrade. The new script, by yuppie-baiting playwright Torben Betts, is casual, slangy and… Read more

Amy Winehouse: ‘not a fake bone in her tiny body’

Masterly and heartbreaking: Amy reviewed

Cinema

Asif Kapadia’s documentary about Amy Winehouse, whom Tony Bennett describes as ‘one of the truest jazz singers that ever lived’, and who died of alcohol poisoning at 27 (FFS), is masterly and gripping, which is a pity, as you can’t… Read more

American troops on the march during the First World War, 1917 (Photo: Getty)

Does history provide the answer to what happened in Tunisia?

Radio

There’s a part of me that thinks OK, we’ve heard enough now, one year on from the beginning of the centenary commemorations, about the first world war. Do we really need any more programmes (on radio or television) about Ypres,… Read more

Jeff Koons and Alan Yentob with Koons' Rabbit, 1986

As blatant rip-offs go, this one is shaping up nicely: Odyssey, BBC2, reviewed

Television

This week’s Imagine… Jeff Koons: Diary of a Seducer (BBC1, Tuesday) began with Koons telling a slightly puzzled-looking Alan Yentob that what spinach was to Popeye, so art is to the rest of us: a way of achieving transcendence and… Read more

Detroit: a city brought back from the dead

The moral case for gentrification

Arts feature

In its pomp, they used to say that what was good for General Motors, Detroit’s Medici, was good for America. Detroit was imperial. Like Rome, it stood for the whole. Michigan Avenue was like something from a Roman urbs: a… Read more

One of Wilford's most treasured clients Herbert von Karajan. Photo: Getty Images

The most powerful man in classical music

Music

When Margaret Thatcher imagined perfect power, she thought of the orchestral conductor. ‘She envied me,’ said Herbert von Karajan, ‘that people always did what I requested.’ Power, however, is a mirage that fades as you get close. What Mrs Thatcher… Read more

Imogen Poots and Owen Wilson

She's Funny That Way isn't funny at all

Cinema

The writer and director Peter Bogdanovich has made three of my favourite films of all time (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, What’s Up, Doc?) but I don’t think I’ll be adding his latest, She’s Funny That Way, to the… Read more

Rachel Nicholls and Peter Wedd in Tristan und Isolde

The finest Tristan since Siegfried Jerusalem

Opera

Which of Wagner’s mature dramas is the most challenging, for performers and spectators? The one you’re seeing at the moment, seems to be the answer for me. The better I know them, the more apprehensive I get about whether I… Read more

‘Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) [6]’, 1943, by Barbara Hepworth

Was Barbara Hepworth a giant of modern sculpture - or a dreary relic of post-war Britain?

Exhibitions

In the last two decades of her life, Barbara Hepworth was a big figure in the world of art. A 21-foot bronze of hers stands outside the UN headquarters in New York, emblematic of her friendship with secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld… Read more

An Audience with Jimmy Savile, Park Theatre (Photo: Helen Maybanks)

We’ve forgotten just how attractive Jimmy Savile once was

Theatre

Ho hum. Bit icky. Not bad. Hardly dazzling. The lukewarm response to An Audience With Jimmy Savile has astonished me. This is the best docudrama I’ve seen on stage. From the early 1970s, Britain swooned before Savile. Marketing pollsters found… Read more

TFI Friday presenter Chris Evans (Photo: Getty)

James Delingpole remembers why he never watched TFI Friday - because it's dreadful

Television

‘Cringe!’ said Boy, after I’d exposed him to a few seconds of last week’s special nostalgia edition of TFI Friday. And he did have a point. From its once almost-daring name to its zany title graphics to its whatever-happened-to guest… Read more

ThinkstockPhotos-523996999

Why sound beats image when it comes to memory

Radio

It’s often not visual images that stimulate memory but a smell, a taste, the sound of pebbles crashing on to the beach, ice cream being scooped into a cone, seagulls circling overhead. Where was I when I first heard that… Read more

Glastonbury Festival, where the absence of authority results in order, not anarchy

Steve Hilton's model for policy reform: Glastonbury (yes, really)

Arts feature

There is a phrase that has been fashionable for years in wonkland — places like the upper echelons of the civil service and high-end think tanks. The phrase is ‘evidence-based policy-making’. There, I bet that’s got you going. When I… Read more

finnissy_english_16

Is this the greatest piano work of the 21st century?

Music

The award of a knighthood to the composer James MacMillan will have ruined last weekend for lots of unsavoury people: the Guardian arts desk, which decided he’d lost his mojo as soon as he turned his back on the left;… Read more

Carsten Höller's 'Flying Mushrooms' (2015). Photo: Linda Nylind

The artist who turned the Hayward Gallery into Disney World

Exhibitions

Gianlorenzo Bernini stressed the difficulty of making a sculpture of a person out of a white material such as marble. Imagine, he said, that someone we knew well whitened his hair, his beard, his lips and his eyebrows, and, were… Read more

The Red Lion, Dorfman Theatre

Patrick Marber’s Red Lion at the Dorfman reviewed: ‘the woman next to me yawned a lot’

Theatre

For nine years Patrick Marber has grappled with writer’s block (which by some miracle doesn’t affect his screenplay work), but the pipes are now ungummed and wallop! his new bolus of creativity splatters across the Dorfman stage. It’s a wordy… Read more

Sir Ian McKellen as Mr Holmes

I dozed through it quite significantly: Mr Holmes reviewed

Cinema

Mr Holmes stars Ian McKellen as the great detective in his old age and while it could have proved a touching character study — who are you, not just when your mind starts to fail, but when the mind for… Read more

Flight at Opera Holland Park (Photo: Robert Workman)

Hans Werner Henze: the Ed Miliband of opera

Opera

We opera critics love gazing into crystal balls. We’re particularly good at discovering Ed Milibands and backing them to the hilt. Postwar opera is full of them. Take Hans Werner Henze. He was considered the future his entire life. Yet… Read more

London Road is a must see

The choreographer that does things to tango couples that Relate would not recommend

Dance

I often regret that I’m writing in the past tense here, but never more than about milonga. It is such a smash show in every way that by rights it would be having a six-month run where everyone can see… Read more

Channel 4’s new sci-fi series Humans

Heroically unoriginal: Channel 4’s Humans reviewed

Television

You’d think scientists might have realised by now that creating a race of super-robots is about as wise as opening a dinosaur park. Yet in Channel 4’s new sci-fi series Humans (Sunday), the manufacturers of the extremely lifelike cyber-servants known… Read more

West Façade Illumination, 2015, by James Turrell

James Turrell interview: ‘I sell blue sky and coloured air’

Arts feature

James Turrell gave me extremely precise instructions. After dinner, I was to walk out through the grounds at Houghton Hall to the skyspace he has built. Here I should observe the gradual darkening above as brightness fell from the Norfolk… Read more

Marcus Mumford and Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons (Photo: Getty)

A reason to (almost) like Mumford & Sons

Music

Like a lot of essentially cautious people, I like my music to take some risks, play with fire and damn the consequences. In truth, of course, most musicians are every bit as conservative as the rest of us: they do… Read more

The Queen of Spades (Photo: Donald Cooper)

ENO’s Queen of Spades: I wanted to grab David Alden’s production by the neck and shake out its silly clutter

Opera

The opera director David Alden has never been one to tread the straight and narrow. Something kinky would emerge, I’m sure, even if he directed the Queen’s televised Christmas message. So matching him up at English National Opera with the… Read more