Arts

‘I find my comfort zone in the wilderness’: Barbara Hannigan

Classical music doesn't need to change. It just needs more performers like Barbara Hannigan

Arts feature

Everyone keeps talking about classical music’s image problem, and proposals on the table designed to rescue the music from apparent extinction have included the suggestion that conductors ought to face audiences rather than orchestras, and the cunning plan, mooted by… Read more

Il Turco in Italia (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Il turco in Italia, Royal Opera House, reviewed: bring sunglasses

Opera

Big slats of orange, burning yellows, an Adriatic in electric blue: I wish I’d bought my sunglasses to the Royal Opera’s latest revival of Il turco in Italia. Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s production of Rossini’s opera buffo first burst… Read more

‘Combs, Hair Highway’, 2014, by Studio Swine

Luxury isn’t the opposite of poverty but the opposite of vulgarity - but don’t tell the V&A

Exhibitions

Different concepts of luxury may be inferred from a comparison of the wedding feast of Charles Bovary and Emma Rouault with the habits of their contemporary the Duke of Wellington. At the Bovary wedding were served four sirloins, six chicken… Read more

Vadim Muntagirov and Laura Morera in ‘La Fille mal gardée’

La Fille mal gardee at the Royal Opera House reviewed: light, lithe and tender

Dance

The current talking-point at the Royal Ballet is the Russians milling around. One can sound unfortunately as if one’s starting a Ukip conversation here, but the Royal Ballet never used to be short of half a dozen home principals, any… Read more

Back to black: Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

Avengers: Age of Ultron reviewed - confusing, undramatic, repetitive and loud

Cinema

Avengers: Age of Ultron is the second film in the Avengers franchise, as written and directed by Joss Whedon, and stars Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark (Iron Man), Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson… Read more

Gruesome twosome: Jason Watkins as Mr Twit and Monica Dolan as Mrs Twit

Measure for Measure at the Barbican reviewed: a charity show for homesick non-doms

Theatre

The smash hit Matilda, based on a Roald Dahl story, has spawned a copycat effort, The Twits. Charm, sweetness and mystery aren’t Dahl’s strong points. He specialises in suburban grotesques who commit infantile barbarities. But his prose is sensational. No… Read more

BBC's Head of Values, Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville) and Will Humphries (Hugh Skinner) (Photo: BBC)

W1A reviewed: so pitch-perfect as to be profoundly depressing

Television

Ever since the days of Tony Hancock, many of the best British sitcoms — from Dad’s Army to Fawlty Towers, Rising Damp to The Royle Family — have featured a middle-aged man convinced that he’s the only sane person left… Read more

Alan Davey: the new controller of Radio 3 (Photo: Getty)

‘Ratings aren’t a pressure for me,’ says the new controller of Radio Three

Radio

The new controller of Radio Three, Alan Davey, was on Feedback this week (Radio Four) talking to listeners about his plans for the network. Roger Bolton, who presents, wondered if Davey was worried about ratings — Radio Three hovers around… Read more

heckler

The Heckler: Curators were once donnish scholars. Now they’re hip illiterates

The Heckler

As a purveyor of lairy souvenirs Venice outdoes even Lourdes. The scores of shops and booths that peddle this lagoonal kitsch are manned by graduates of hard-sell whose market-barker schtick does not need to include descriptions as their goods are… Read more

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham

Cars are our cathedrals

Arts feature

Imagine for a moment Harley Earl, head of design at General Motors, Detroit’s wizard of kitsch. Standing before him, in his studio, is the cetacean bulk, nipple-coloured pink paint, churrigueresque chrome ornaments and rocket-ship details of his 1959 Cadillac Eldorado… Read more

‘Propeller (Air Pavilion)’, 1937

Better than Robert? Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern reviewed

Exhibitions

In 1978, shortly before she died, the artist Sonia Delaunay was asked in an interview whether she considered herself a feminist. ‘No! I despise the word!’ she replied. ‘I never thought of myself as a woman in any conscious way.… Read more

Daniel Barenboim conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Photo: Getty)

Why Daniel Barenboim should be the next head of the Berlin Phil

Music

Daniel Barenboim is back in town: the South Bank is mounting a ‘Barenboim Project 2015’ in which he’s playing the Schubert piano sonatas and conducting his magnificent Berlin Staatskapelle in Elgar’s Second Symphony and Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto, with Martha… Read more

opera

ENO's Between Worlds at the Barbican reviewed: too respectful

Opera

This week, some 200 years since Goya’s ‘The Disasters of War’, almost 80 years after Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, and over 50 since Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer for his photograph of a self-immolating Buddhist monk, the British media found itself questioning… Read more

Find the voice, find the character: Steve Nallon as Margaret Thatcher

Even those who reviled Thatcher will be moved, appalled and astonished: Dead Sheep at the Park reviewed

Theatre

Dead Sheep is a curious dramatic half-breed that examines Geoffrey Howe’s troubled relationship with Margaret Thatcher. Structurally it’s a Mexican bean. It leaps all over the 1980s and it keeps shifting genre from cabaret to tragedy via cheesy political satire.… Read more

Gardeners’ world: Alan Rickman (Louis XIV) and Kate Winslet (Sabine De Barra) at Versailles

A Little Chaos review: Kate Winslet emotes her little socks off

Cinema

A Little Chaos is a period drama directed by Alan Rickman and starring Kate Winslet as a woman charged to design and build a grand fountain garden for Louis XIV at Versailles. The film is, I noted from the poster,… Read more

Free the nipple!

I wish Daenerys Targaryen would free the nipple: Game of Thrones series five reviewed

Television

Blimey, there has been so much good stuff to watch on telly of late: the Grand National, the Boat Race and the Masters; The Island with Bear Grylls; the final of University Challenge (bravura performance from Caius’s Loveday, though how… Read more

Bette Davis, 1940 (Photo: STF/AFP/Getty)

Why Bette Davis loathed theatre

Radio

It was called Frankly Speaking and by golly it was. The great screen actress Bette Davis was being interviewed by not one but two men: George Coulouris, with whom she co-starred in Hollywood, and a BBC producer. ‘It’s a little… Read more

london

Boris Johnson on his plans for the Olympic Park: inspired or whimsical?

Arts feature

Overseeing Boris Johnson’s futuristic office, with its spectacular view of the increasingly culinary skyscape of the City of London with its Gherkins and Cheesegraters, is a bust of Pericles, distinctive in his helmet. It is no surprise that the Mayor… Read more

Italy’s highest-paid heart-throb, Mastroianni as Guido Anselmi, a film director in ‘creative limbo’

How Fellini made his modernist masterpiece

Arts feature

Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita was a box-office triumph in Italy in 1960. It made $1.5 million at the box office in three months — more than Gone With the Wind had. ‘It was the making of me,’ said Fellini.… Read more

‘Observer’s Post’, 1939, by Eric Ravilious

Irresistible: Ravilious at the Dulwich Picture Gallery reviewed

Exhibitions

The most unusual picture in the exhibition of work by Eric Ravilious at Dulwich Picture Gallery, in terms of subject-matter at least, is entitled ‘Bomb Defusing Equipment’. In other ways — crisp linear precision, a designer’s eye for the melodious… Read more

Chris Rainbow fan: DJ Kenny Everett Photo: Getty

The golden age of pop has been replaced by the golden age of pop obituaries

Music

The golden age of pop music may be long gone, but the golden age of pop musicians’ obituaries is definitely with us. Soon I shall have to start apologising for returning to this subject with such regularity, but barely a… Read more

Graham Vick's production of Tippett's The Ice Break

Tippett’s triumphant failure: Birmingham Opera Company’s The Ice Break reviewed

Opera

The Ice Break is Michael Tippett’s fourth opera, first produced at Covent Garden in 1977 and rarely produced anywhere since, though there is an excellent recording of it. Its brevity (75 minutes) rather took the wind out of the Royal… Read more

Sunbee Han, Sooraj Subramaniam, Emily Pottage, Avatâra Ayuso and Richard Causer in Bayadere – The Ninth Life.
© Foteini Christofilopoulou

An Indian Bayadère that meets a sludgy end

Dance

For an Indian woman to make a dancework about La Bayadère is a promising prospect. This classical ballet of 1877 by Russia’s French-born genius Marius Petipa tells the simple story of an Indian temple dancer — essentially a religious sex… Read more

Stephen Mangan, John Rogan, Miles Jupp and Deborah Findlay in Rules For Living at the Dorfman, National Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Nicholas Hytner’s sod-you farewell: Rules for Living at the Dorfman reviewed

Theatre

Experts are concerned that Alan Ayckbourn’s plays may soon face extinction. Fewer than 80 of these precious beasts still exist in their natural habitat, so theatre-goers will be cheered to know that the National Theatre has created a genetically identical… Read more

Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’

Woman in Gold review: even Helen Mirren is weighed down by the script’s banalities

Cinema

Woman in Gold feels rather like a Jewish version of Philomena as this too is about an older woman seeking justice for what has been stolen from her in the past but, unlike the Jewish version of almost everything, this… Read more

Dara Ó Briain and Ed Byrne travel along the Pan-American Highway

A review of three reassuringly unoriginal new travel programmes fronted by comedians

Television

Who says British television lacks imagination? You might have thought, for example, that every possible combination of comedian and travel programme had been exhausted long ago. After all, it’s now 26 years since Michael Palin set the trend by following… Read more

The Reverend Libby Lane with Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu Photo: Getty

Why wasn’t there more about the other faiths over Easter on the BBC?

Radio

There was no shortage of Easter music and talks across the BBC networks with a sunrise service on Radio 4 followed by much fuss and fanfare for the ‘live’ relay of Libby Lane’s first Easter sermon as Bishop. A significant… Read more

heckler_110415

The Heckler: why it’s time to kill off James Bond

The Heckler

For fans of the franchise who remain unconvinced by Daniel Craig’s time on her majesty’s secret service, the stories leaking from the production of the latest film Spectre are further evidence that the time has come to hand 007 a… Read more