MusicCall me biased, because I’m working on them, but I truly cannot imagine richer musical pickings this summer than those to be found at The Proms (18 July - 13 September). With well over a thousand promenade tickets available for every concert, every night for a fiver, this has to be the best value in the arts, anywhere in the world. New director Roger Wright, also the Controller of Radio 3, has put together a thrilling programme that comprises old classics and world premieres, juggling time-honoured favourites with tricky avant gardists and honourably adhering to founder Henry Wood’s objective to educate as well as entertain. For the family, there are events galore including Morris dancing in Kensington Gardens and family orchestra sessions, for Daleks-fans there’s an entire Doctor Who Prom, for all music lovers there are jaw-dropping names on offer – Barenboim, Boulez, Rattle, Haitink, Dudamel to name but a handful of the conductors appearing – and this year marks the launch of the Proms Plus literary festival, which will include the likes of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, discussing Dostoevsky. It’s almost worth staying in London for the whole summer to take advantage of the bargain bonanza we’re lucky enough to have on our doorstep.
Also not to be missed: phenomenal young tenor Andrew Staples – whose recent Tamino at Opera Holland Park was described as ‘radiant’ – in his solo recital of Britten and Auden songs at Wilton’s Music Hall, one of the capital’s most charming venues, on 28 August.
TheatreApart from the unmissable David Tennant Hamlet for the RSC (from July 24) I am excited by the prospect of Her Naked Skin at the National this summer (also from 24 July). A new play by the brilliant Rebecca Lenkiewicz, this, remarkably, is the first play by a woman ever to have been staged at the Olivier Theatre, the National’s main stage. Fitting (if depressing), then, that the play is about the suffragettes and their struggle for equality. It stars the wonderful Leslie Manville as Lady Celia Cain and Jemima Rooper as her young seamstress lover in Holloway Prison, and is part of the Travelex £10 season, so get booking fast. At the lovely Chichester Festival, meanwhile a Ronald Harwood double bill, of new play Collaboration and his much-celebrated Taking Sides is fascinating at the Minerva Theatre (16 July – 30 August). Later in the summer, I am greatly looking forward to Now or Later, the latest offering from American playwright Christopher Shinn, whose 2002 play Where Do We Live was such a searching examination of New York in the immediate aftermath of September 11. Shinn promises more incisive political and cultural commentary at the Royal Court; Now or Later, starring award-winning young actor Eddie Redmayne, is set in Washington on the night before the 2008 US Presidential elections (from 3 September).
JazzHappily for London, the coolest jazz venue in town, The Vortex, has secured one of the coolest cats in jazz, Vinícius Cantuária for three nights (21-23 July). The multi-instrumentalist Brazilian is one of the world’s best singer-songwriters and will be supported by different acts each night he’s here. Meanwhile, Sally Greene’s new-look Ronnie Scott’s continues to go from strength to strength; I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the legendary Mulgrew Miller Trio, who play there 11-13 August.
ArtDon’t write off Wyndham Lewis as a mere Nazi-loving Vorticist with a talent for the odd incendiary modernist manifesto quite yet. Aside from his legendary portraits of contemporaries including T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Edith Sitwell, there are some quite breathtakingly beautiful and tender portraits of his wife to be found at the National Portrait Gallery in Wyndham Lewis: Portraits (3 July-19 October). While you’re there, the BP Portrait Award 2008 is as ever worth a long linger. I have visited the free exhibition, a marvellous feast of humanity in all its curious variation, on a number of occasions and am always struck by the same line popping into my head: all the lonely people, where do they all come from…?
DanceFollowing Akram Khan’s stunning work bahok with the National Ballet of China at Sadler’s Wells in June, I’m intrigued to see what he does with In-I, part of the Ju'bi lation season at the National (from 18 September). The internationally acclaimed contemporary dancer and choreographer will join forces with Turner prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor to celebrate the Oscar-winning actress Juliette Binoche. She is learning to dance (as well as exhibiting her paintings at the next-door British Film Institute –from 2 September), Kapoor is designing the set, and Khan will act, sing and play the guitar. Talk about a collaboration of multi-talents extraordinaire…
Clemency Burton-Hill will be presenting The Proms on BBC 4