Beyond comprehension

The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s ‘Belief and Beyond Belief’ season is drawing to a close, without making it in any degree clearer what it was supposed to be about. Many major works have been played, and the season will end with Eschenbach conducting Beethoven’s Ninth. But then any series of concerts with a pretentious name ends

Arts feature

Dome truths

It was 50 years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play. The result was a popular masterpiece. Thirty years later, a less accomplished, tone-deaf group of individuals collaborated on the Millennium Dome, and the result was an expensive, sniggerable calamity. For a while, I was one of them. Of course, it was not

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The unhappy Prince

A tragic flaw is one thing — every hero should have one — but Mayerling’s Rudolf, a syphilitic drug addict with a mother fixation and a death wish, is a very hard man to love. Kenneth MacMillan’s 1978 ballet, currently being revived at Covent Garden, tells the complex tale of the Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary


Masonic bodge

Left-wing groupie Paul Mason has written a costume drama about the suppression of the Paris commune in 1871. We meet Louise Michel and her all-female gang of arsonists as they’re carted off to jail for setting fire to the Tuileries. After a harsh stint in the cells, they’re shipped out to the French colony of


Stand and deliver

Some opera-lovers prefer concert performances to full stagings. I don’t. It’s that whole Gesamtkunstwerk thing: opera needs to be seen as well as heard. There’ll always be circumstances in which concert performances are welcome — to rescue a neglected score, say, or if a symphony orchestra wants to stretch itself. But when a major company


Arms race | 4 May 2017

Like most documentaries, Britain’s Nuclear Bomb: The Inside Story (BBC4, Wednesday) began by boasting about all the exclusives it would be serving up. Unlike most, it was as good as its word. What followed did indeed contain much previously unseen footage and interviews with people — including ‘this country’s bomb-maker in chief’ — who’ve never


Put a spell on you

Many of the mediums from which art is made have been around for a long time. People have been painting on walls, for example, for about 40,000 years. Similarly, figures have been fashioned out of stone and metal for millennia, and still are. But if there is one ancient medium you might think was now


Thatcher’s Britain with her knickers down

Two 16-year-old schoolgirls from a sink estate in Bradford find fun and happiness by shacking up with a middle-aged married man — if you’ve never seen it, it sounds like the worst movie ever made. Yet Rita, Sue and Bob Too was a delight, one of the best British films of the 1980s, and this


Discovery channels

Bashing the BBC often becomes a popular blood sport in times of political instability, and especially if the left is weak and un-able to defend itself. You only have to think back to the period when Margaret Thatcher was leading the Tories and lambasting Auntie to recognise that there is some truth in this aphorism.