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Listen and learn

Michael Tippett’s first opera The Midsummer Marriage is so great that one can afford to admit that it isn’t perfect. He tries to do too many things in it, and so despite its considerable length — three full hours of music in the Royal Opera’s revival of the 1996 production — there is a sense

Thrilled by Ibsen

Since taking on this job four years ago, I’ve reviewed 289 plays of which, perhaps, 50 have been worth seeing. Of these, only about ten have been truly outstanding and, of these, only five as close to perfection as it’s possible to get in the theatre. Pillars of the Community, a full-scale production of one

Timeless grace

Some dance works age, some don’t. Yet it is difficult to pinpoint the factors that bestow immortality on something as ephemeral as ballet. In the case of Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon, however, timelessness stems mainly, though not exclusively, from a masterly woven dramatic layout; it is through the possibility of diverse interpretative readings that the ballet

Getting to know Powell

Most novel-readers will be aware that Anthony Powell’s celebrated roman-fleuve A Dance to the Music of Time is named after and inspired by Poussin’s great painting in the Wallace Collection. As Jeremy Warren, head of collections at the Wallace and this exhibition’s curator, points out: ‘Both novel and picture examine the nature of mortality and

Norman wisdom

As a child I would stand looking in fascinated horror at the enormous polar bear pinning down an unfortunate seal. Then on to the equally immense tiger ‘shot by King George V’, roaring and prowling in its glass case. Followed by the mummy, donated in 1827 by ‘J. Morrison, London’. Who was J. Morrison of

Playing with Shakespeare

The notion of updating Shakespeare always strikes me as a curious one. For a start it assumes that the audience is stupid. Do we say, ‘I hadn’t realised that Julius Caesar contains universal themes of ambition and betrayal until I saw it set on the floor at the Chicago Board of Trade’? Or, ‘It never