Damian Thompson

Unsung hero | 12 May 2016

One of the greatest choral symphonies of the 20th century, entitled Das Siegeslied (Psalm of Victory), has been heard only three times since it was composed in 1933. The last performance took place in Bratislava in 1997. The text is a German translation of words from Psalm 68: ‘…as wax melteth before the fire, so

Arts feature

Death metal

With its loud guitar riffs and even louder fashion, heavy metal has always been ripe for ridicule. In its mid-1980s heyday, it was epitomised by the fictional rock group Spinal Tap prancing on stage next to an 18-inch polystyrene model of Stonehenge while clad in ball-crushingly tight trousers and floor-length capes. In some parts of


Shaw thing

T.E. Lawrence is like the gap-year student from hell. He visits a country full of exotic barbarians and after a busy few months rescuing them from their spiritual frailties, and helping them emulate their Western superiors, he returns home and never stops boring on about it. ‘How much I learned from them,’ he gushes, when


Divine comedy | 12 May 2016

You have to be quite silly to take Gilbert and Sullivan seriously. But even sillier not to. G&S is still a litmus test for a particularly British type of operatic snobbery: ‘Is there a place for Gilbert and Sullivan in the 21st century?’ asked a Radio 3 presenter last year, about the time that ENO’s


Something to crow about

There’s no way of saying this without shredding the last vestiges of my critical credibility, but this new Ben Elton comedy series, Upstart Crow (BBC2, Mondays), about William Shakespeare: I’m loving it and think it’s really, really funny. Yes, all right, it’s very like season two of Blackadder — which Elton co-wrote with Richard Curtis.


Surreal, strange and scatological

Why do we put one work of art beside another? For the most part museums and galleries tend to stick them on the wall as if they were butterflies or beetles, putting similar species together: an array of impressionist flowers, baroque altarpieces, pictures by a certain painter. But there are other ways to do it.


The male gaze

Everybody Wants Some!! is a comedy written and directed by Richard Linklater, which is the good news, but it’s set among baseball jocks at a Texas college in 1980, which may be the less good news. Your enjoyment of the film may depend not on Linklater’s abilities, which are there for all to see —


The power of song

You might not think that the Eurovision Song Contest (screened live from Stockholm tonight) could have any connection with how we might choose to vote in the coming referendum. Surely it’s just a string of naff pop songs stuck together with fake glitter and a lot of false jollity? The songs are uniformly terrible, the