The big push

We are all just trying to make a living here, obviously. Musicians are no different. There are so many of them now, several generations of them, for the old ones never stop and new ones seem to appear every day. To make any impression at all, then, you need what sportsmen call ‘momentum’. That’s the

Arts feature

A silent revival

Peter Hoskin says that thanks to the DVD and advances in film restoration there has never been a better time for movie fans Whatever happened to silent cinema? Oh, yes, that’s right, it was supplanted by the talkies in the late Twenties and early Thirties, until it suddenly came back to life in time for


Callas versus Callas

As a human, Maria Callas was a diva. As a musician, she was a divinity. In the early Seventies she came down from Olympus to share her wisdom with us mortals and gave a series of open classes at the Julliard in New York. These seminars inspired Terrence McNally to create a full-scale portrait of

Songbird in a gilded cage

Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz is accounted the most considerable literary figure in 17th-century Latin America. I’m happy to take this on trust, remembering with great pleasure her comedy The House of Desires, a palpable hit when given in 2004 as part of the RSC’s still memorable festival of plays from the Spanish Golden

Unfinished business | 18 February 2012

Absent Friends is the least technically adventurous of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays. Yet Jeremy Herrin’s revival (Harold Pinter Theatre, booking until 14 April) seems determined to display all its workings. The fact that the action unfolds in real time is thrust in our face with a big clock on the back wall, and an even bigger


Offenbach hotchpotch

Is any opera more frustrating than Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann? It persistently arouses hopes which it almost as persistently fails to realise. Because there is no such thing as an authoritative text, one always hopes that a new production will have hit on a solution to its numerous problems. I’ve seen enough accounts of


Eco-loons on the march

Only this morning I got an email from an evidently very bright 17-year-old at a certain nameless public school. ‘I’m so sick of having to study “environmental ethics” for hours on end, being split into “study groups”, and making lovely colourful mind-maps for presentations; the syllabus is infantile, and I feel increasingly infantilised by my


Displeasures of the flesh

When Lucian Freud (1922–2011) was hailed as the Greatest Living Painter towards the end of his career, it was almost as a mark of respect for having survived so long and kept stubbornly painting in the way he wanted, without any quarter given to fads and fashions, in pursuit of truth to appearances, whatever that


Terribly long & awfully sentimental

Unless I am Extremely Dim & Incredibly Thick, which is always a possibility — you think I don’t know? I do — this Stephen Daldry adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close just doesn’t seen to have any point, and is sentimental and banal as well as very, very long


Character building | 18 February 2012

He writes about the stuff you’d rather not know, prefer not to think about, pretend to ignore. But it lives on with you in the mind. It won’t let you go. By his words, the sharp, brittle, spot-on dialogue, he forces you to recognise the limitations of your experience, your understanding. Roy Williams’s new trilogy