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Arts

‘Livia da Porto Thiene and her daughter Deidamia’, 1552, by Veronese

The National Gallery's Veronese is the exhibition of a lifetime

Arts feature

Paolo Veronese (1528–1588) is one of the great painters of the Venetian School, often joined in an unholy trinity with Titian and Tintoretto. But he was not Venetian, and only arrived in the city when he was well into his… Read more

Ferdinand Kingsley

Ferdinand Kingsley interview: 'Yeah, but mum's dad was totally bald too!'

Secondary Feature

The day before I’m due to meet Ferdinand Kingsley, actor son of Sir Ben, he sends me a message to introduce himself via Twitter. ‘I’ll try not to be a complete a***hole!’ he quips merrily, for absolutely no reason at… Read more

A scene painting from Parsifal by Paul Joukovski - 1882 (Photo: Richard Wagner Museum Bayreuth/ Dagli Orti)

In the mood for Parsifal, my Passiontide fare

Music

This week, I have been mostly listening to Parsifal. Not the St Matthew Passion, which is my usual Passiontide fare. And, boy, it’s been quite an experience. You have to be in the mood for the Bach, but for the… Read more

Bryn Terfel as Méphistophélès and Simon Keenlyside as Valentin in ‘Faust

Bryn Terfel lords it over 'Faust' magnificently

Opera

There’s a great deal to disapprove of in Gounod’s Faust. It breaks down a pillar of western literature and whisks up what remains into a flouncy French fancy. It turns the hero’s famous striving into mere lust — for a… Read more

(Photo: Johan Persson)

Modern dance vs Shakespeare

Dance

In a dance world that has chosen to dispense with stylistic and semantic subtleties, ‘narrative ballet’ and ‘story ballet’ are often used as synonymous. Yet there are differences — and major ones at that. In a ‘narrative ballet’ it is… Read more

Rob Callender in Another Country (Photo: Johan Persson)

Another Country could almost be a YouTube advert for Eton

Theatre

Another Country was an instant response to Anthony Blunt’s exposure in 1979 as a Marxist spy. Julian Mitchell set out to explain how gay public-school toffs, reared in a system of hypocrisy and backstabbing, could betray their country. At a… Read more

Ready to swoosh: Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, aka Peter Parker

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Too much bang-bang, not enough kiss-kiss

Cinema

Have you seen that pizza with a cheeseburger crust? If not, just imagine a normal pizza, except where the pizza ought to end — and civilised society begin — there’s a ring of about ten miniature burgers, all encased in… Read more

Martha Kearney: on course to make her first proper wildflower honey

Without a strong woman in charge, bees are doomed — just like us

Television

God bless the BBC. And I’m not being entirely sarcastic here. There are some things the BBC does very well and one of them, sadly, was The Review Show, its monthly critical round-up of theatre, film, books and new art… Read more

Crucifixion by Michele da Verona - 1501 (Photo: Art Archive/ DeA Picture)

BBC radio gets Easter right

Radio

Given the decline of Christian belief in the UK, it’s surprising to discover there’s quite so much about the Easter story on the airwaves this week. You might have assumed that no space would have been found in the schedules… Read more

Passing-Thoughts

Brains on a lithographic slab

Culture notes

The Blyth Gallery is situated in the Sherfield Building, deep in the South Kensington campus of Imperial College London. The Sherfield Building is a labyrinth of concrete, linoleum and glass. Its atmosphere is oppressively institutional. You walk around to the… Read more

‘Architectural Exercise in Colour and Form No. 6’, 1962, by Stephen Willats, on show at Victoria Miro

When Britain’s avant-garde weren’t so shouty

Arts feature

When the New York art dealer David Zwirner opened his London gallery in October 2012, observers expected him to make a statement of intent. Zwirner, who the magazine Art Review placed at number two in its 2013 Art Power 100… Read more

DJ Frankie Knuckles (Photo: Claire Greenway/Getty)

Pop has become a conservative art form and an old man’s game

Music

It is coming to something when relatively young pop stars die not of drugs or misadventure but, essentially, of old age and decay. Frankie Knuckles, the house DJ and producer, breathed his last recently at the age of just 59,… Read more

(Image: Barney Heywood/Paul Blakemore)

Beware of Banksy: his art can make you homeless

Theatre

You may not have heard of Goldie. He’s an actor and singer whose name refers to the bullion with which a cosmetic mason has decorated his incisors. A recent James Bond also featured a glimpse of the Fort Knox gnashers,… Read more

Design by William Kent for a cascade at Chatsworth, c.1735–40; below, the Bute epergne, 1756, by Thomas Heming, designed by Kent

William Kent was an ideas man - the Damien Hirst of the 18th century

Exhibitions

How important is William Kent (1685–1748)? He’s not exactly a household name and yet this English painter and architect, apprenticed to a Hull coach-painter before he was sent to Italy (as a kind of cultural finishing school) by a group… Read more

Amanda Roocroft as the Duchess in ‘Powder Her Face’

Mixed results from the ENO and ROH in their seasonal away games

Opera

It’s been a spring tradition for several years now for English National Opera to present small-scale productions in various venues around London. But this year the Royal Opera followed suit, heading across the Thames to the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse… Read more

Kelly Reilly and Brendan Gleeson: on tremendous form

Waiting for Godot - but with plot

Cinema

If the very first scene of Calvary doesn’t immediately draw you in there’s every chance there is something seriously wrong with you and I would urge you to book an appointment with your GP. It is a terrific opening and… Read more

Opinionated and recalcitrant: Oona Chaplin as Kitty Trevelyan

Gas gangrene, shell shock and flinty women: BBC One's new Sunday night offering is no soother

Television

Sunday nights. What are they for? Eggs. Tea. Toast. Nerves about the week ahead. Something comforting on TV.  But comfort comes in many forms. For some, it’s twee life at Downton Abbey. For others, it’s the thrill of Homeland. With… Read more

Pickets in Thoresby (Photo: STAFF/AFP/Getty)

Police and miners clash again over Orgreave on Radio 4’s The Reunion

Radio

Four could have been dubbed the Frank Radio network this week as the sharp skills of Sue MacGregor, Alan Dein and Fi Glover teased out some stark opinions and revelations. MacGregor was back on Sunday morning with a new series… Read more

sensational-butterflies-062-310314

From egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly

Culture notes

South Kensington is teeming with butterflies at the moment, or at least the specially constructed tropical enclosure at the Natural History Museum is. Sensational Butterflies (until 14 September) takes you on a journey through the life cycle of, you guessed… Read more

‘Portrait of a Lady, known as the “Bella Nani”’, about 1560–5, by Veronese, in the National Gallery’s current exhibition

The curator brain drain

Arts feature

In 1857, the National Gallery’s pioneering director Sir Charles Eastlake bought one of Veronese’s most sumptuous paintings, ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’. The purchase was met with strident and very personal opposition from a Tory, Lord Elcho, in the… Read more

W H Auden (1907 - 1973), British-born American poet and essayist Photo: Getty

The mean, bullying maestro is extinct – or should be

Music

W.H.Auden once wrote: ‘Real artists are not nice people. All their best feelings go into their work and life has the residue’ — which puts those who aspire to be artists in a bit of a quandary. Is it a… Read more

Mia Wasikowska as Hannah in ‘The Double’

The Double will stay in your mind, like a bit of food caught in a tooth

Cinema

I should warn you that if you go see The Double it is one of those films that will trouble you long after the event. It will trouble you at breakfast and it will trouble you at lunch and it… Read more

Mysteriously ravishing: ‘Santo Spirito’, 2013, by Arturo Di Stefano

It’s the whisper you’ve got to listen for in Arturo Di Stefano’s paintings

Exhibitions

One of the paintings in Arturo Di Stefano’s impressive new show at Purdy Hicks Gallery is called ‘Santa Croce’ and it depicts the arcaded cloister of the church in Florence where Giotto painted a series of frescoes. Di Stefano has… Read more

Passive and bound: ‘Agnus Dei’, c.1635–40, by Zurbarán

Francisco de Zurbarán had a Hollywood sense of drama

Exhibitions

It seems suitable that just round the corner from the Zurbarán exhibition at the Palais des Beaux Arts is the Musée Magritte. Surrealism was in the air of 20th-century Belgium, just as much as it was in the atmosphere of… Read more

Emily Magee as Empress; Johan Botha as Emperor © ROH / Clive Barda

The snobbery and sweaty brows of watching opera in the cinema

Opera

I remain puzzled that, so far as I know, no daily or weekly paper carries reviews of the New York Met opera relays (I’m not a denizen of the blogosphere, where they may well swarm). To judge from the number… Read more

Tabac Rouge at Sadler's Wells Theatre Photo: Richard Haughton

European postmodern dance can be just as boring as American postmodern dance

Dance

What’s in a definition? As far as theatre dance is concerned, quite a lot. Labelling — and often labelling for the mere sake of it — is integral to our dance culture. Take, for instance, the various A-level dance syllabuses,… Read more

An upmarket panto with top-quality jokes and strong tunes: Jordy, Simon and Louis

Simon Cowell’s latest attempt at global domination

Theatre

I Can’t Sing! is a parody of The X Factor, which already parodies itself at every turn. Quite a tough call. The heroine is an oppressed no-hoper stuck in a tiny caravan under the Westway with her crippled dad who… Read more

Shameless libertarian-right-leaning agitprop: Martin Durkin and Nigel Farage on Channel 4

The EU is worse than you thought

Television

For me, by far the most surprising revelation in Martin Durkin’s documentary Nigel Farage: Who Are You? (Channel 4, Monday) was just how astonishingly vast, unwieldy, authoritarian, interfering, undemocratic, sclerotic, and sinister the European Union actually is. As a Eurosceptic,… Read more