Where should this music be?

This must rank as the most heartbreaking example of premature chicken-counting in musical history. ‘Gotter has made a marvellous free adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest,’ wrote poet Gottfried Bürger to the translator A.W. Schlegel on 31 October 1791. ‘Mozart is composing the piece.’ Three days later, brimming with misplaced confidence, the dramatist Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter

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Taking the pissoir

You have to imagine the lines that follow in separate fonts to get the full sense of the nonsense in ‘Karawane’, one of Hugo Ball’s ‘verses without words’: jolifanto bambla ô falli bambla grossiga m’pfa habla horem égiga goramen And it ends not with a bang, but with … ‘ba-umf’. See the original and it’s

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Notes on the type

Back in 1997 the New Yorker published a piece lampooning the proliferation of ‘Notes on the Type’ — those oleaginous mini-essays informing us that ‘this book was set in Backslap Grotesque Italic Semi-Detached, a variant of Bangalore Torpedo Moribund adapted in 1867 from a matrice by the Danish chiseller Espy Sans, a character if ever


My best fiend

Anthony Neilson is an Arts Council favourite known for trivial but impenetrable plays with off-putting names like The Wonderful World of Dissocia. His latest effort has another hazard-warning instead of a title. Unreachable starts with an actress auditioning for a dystopian sci-fi movie set in a clichéd future. She lands the role and we cut


First thing’s first

Leonore is the first version of Beethoven’s Fidelio, and Stephen Medcalf thinks it’s better. ‘What Leonore gives us is more discursive but more dramatic,’ he declares in the programme of this Buxton Festival production. Well he would, wouldn’t he? He’s the director. You’d hope he’d have some faith in the piece. And what’s undeniable is


The prodigy

On Tuesday night on Channel 4, a stern male figure peered over his glasses (as equipped with one of those cords favoured by themiddle-aged specs-wearer) and offered us his robust views on how government benefits encourage laziness. Which might not sound that unusual — except that the male figure in question was 12. His name,


Privates on parade

In 1927, Georgia O’Keeffe announced that she would like her next exhibition to be ‘so magnificently vulgar that all the people who have liked what I have been doing would stop speaking to me’. Perhaps, then, she would approve of the massive retrospective of her work at Tate Modern. This show is, as is frequently


Girls v. ghosts

From the moment this all-female reboot of Ghostbusters was announced, the fan-boy panic set in: where will it end? An all-female Top Gun? Will it make me pregnant? Who are these ‘women’? Where do they come from? Are they a recent thing? Do we know any? If it’s proved they can carry big Hollywood comedies,


Sounds of the suburbs

In After the Vote, her talk for this week’s special edition of A Point of View (Radio 4) on the subject of Brexit, the philosopher (and former Reith lecturer) Onora O’Neill suggested that the media have played a large part in creating our current crisis. All branches of it failed ‘to communicate with the public