Arts feature

Damian Thompson

God’s messenger

When the Japanese conductor Masaaki Suzuki leads his forces in a performance of a Bach cantata, does he worry that the non-Christians in his audience will face the fires of Hell? That seems a bizarre question to ask any conductor of Bach’s music, especially one from Japan, where only one per cent of the population

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Paranormal activity

In 1896, a group of five young Swedish women artists began to meet regularly in order to access mystical zones beyond the confines of mundane everyday reality. Every Friday, they would gather in order to contact the incorporeal beings they called ‘spirit world leaders’ or ‘High Masters’; among these were five named Ananda, Clemens, Esther,


Pride and prejudice | 10 March 2016

Jonathan Lynn, co-author of Yes Minister, has excavated the history of France during the two world wars and discovered dramatic gold. He presents us with pen portraits of eminent Frenchmen we think we know. Marshal Pétain (Tom Conti) is a humane pragmatist who refuses to risk speculative assaults on the Western Front. He evolved his


Round-up of new opera

A mixed year so far for new opera. A few really dismal things have appeared from people who should know better. Did the world really need an operatic treatment of Dante’s Divine Comedy for orchestra and chorus? Louis Andriessen thought so; his La Commedia (2004–8) luckily only reared its drab head for one night at


Just what the doctor ordered

Every now and then, a costume drama comes along that’s so daringly unconventional as to make us re-examine our whole idea of what the form can achieve. ITV’s Doctor Thorne, though, isn’t one of them. Instead, Julian Fellowes’s adaptation of Anthony Trollope observes the usual rules with almost pathological fidelity. Extras dance gamely in ballrooms,


The human factor | 10 March 2016

Anomalisa is an animated film written by Charlie Kaufman, and while the temptation is to label it a midlife crisis movie, because labels make life so much easier, it is not that clear-cut, just as it never is with Kaufman, who has always refused to explain himself. (Asked what his films are about, his stock


Girl power | 10 March 2016

Hurrah for Radio 3 and its (long-overdue) efforts to give us music not just performed by women but composed, and conducted, by them too. Last year’s innovative day of programming for International Women’s Day introduced us to composers many of us had never heard of, such as Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre and Barbara Strozzi,