Follow the lieder

If a symphony is, as Mahler famously put it, ‘like the world’, then songs and lieder are like seeing that world in Blake’s grain of sand. Their span may be short, but their emotional horizon is infinite — a lyric window on to an epic landscape. And yet there’s something about a song recital that

Arts feature

The female gaze | 2 November 2017

Every weekday, I travel by Tube to The Spectator’s office, staring at the posters plastered all over the walls. I like looking at the plays and exhibitions that have recently opened or wondering whether that shampoo really will add more ‘oomph’ to my hair. Often there is a pretty girl on the poster. A picture

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The death of cosy Christie

This is not Midsomer Murders. The new film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express is thick with violence and sexual innuendo. It elevates Hercule Poirot, the diminutive, fastidious Belgian detective, with his egg-shaped head and pot belly, to part-time action figure, a man who chases bad guys down dizzying descents in exotic

Liam Gallagher: As You Were

Grade: C+ There was a certain thrill to be had from that first Oasis album, Definitely Maybe. Liam’s yob howl and Noel’s magnificent pillaging of T. Rex, the New Seekers, the Pistols, Zep and, of course, the Beatles. By the time the second one came along, you could count me out, what with the asinine,

Life after death | 2 November 2017

According to the accountants’ ledgers, DVDs are dying. Sales of those shiny discs, along with their shinier sibling the Blu-ray, amounted to £894 million last year, which is almost a fifth lower than in 2015 and less than half of what was achieved a decade ago. And last week we finally said goodbye to the


Not with a bang but with a whimper

Bang! A brand new theatre has opened on the South Bank managed by the two Nicks, Hytner and Starr, who ran the National for more than a decade. Located near a river crossing, their venture bears the unexciting name ‘Bridge’. If these two adopted a child, they’d call it ‘Orphanage’. Visitors approach along the Thames


Unclear Handeling

ENO has revived Richard Jones’s production of Handel’s Rodelinda. It was warmly greeted on its first outing in 2014, though Jones was, as he remains, inveterately controversial. The opera itself seems to command universal admiration among Handelians, and widespread approval among those of us who have never quite managed to call ourselves that. The most


Paradise lost | 2 November 2017

Anybody who wants to maintain a strong and untroubled stance against mass migration to Europe should probably avoid BBC2’s Exodus: Our Journey Continues. In theory, the case for limiting the numbers may be more or less unanswerable — but this is a joltingly uncomfortable reminder of what it can mean in practice. Any viewers suspicious


All black and white

Leonardo da Vinci thought sculpting a messy business. The sculptor, he pointed out, has to bang away with a hammer, getting covered in the process with a nasty mixture of dust and sweat. In contrast the painter can sit at his easel, dressed like a gentleman, and portray the whole wide world and everything in


The gloves will come off

You know where you aren’t with director Yorgos Lanthimos. The Greek allegorist creates parallel worlds which superficially resemble our own. In Dogtooth an overweening patriarch incarcerates his three adult children in a state of infantilised innocence. The Lobster punishes those unable to find a mate by transfiguring them into animals. His acerbic commentaries on flawed


All’s well that ends well | 2 November 2017

Mandy was 38 when she was told she was ‘in the end stage’, suffering from COPD and finding it more and more difficult to breathe. Matthew, in his twenties, was given just four to five years of life after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Vivek, also in his twenties, is confined to a wheelchair