I had the strangest experience at the ballet in Dresden: all perfectly pretty onstage, the company well schooled but I couldn't believe the orchestra. I've never heard a ballet orchestra playing with such love for the music - beautiful phrasing, elegantly balanced winds, seamless ensemble, the right notes all the time, in tune...I had to pinch myself.
Of course, this was no ordinary ballet band; at the Semper Oper in Dresden, the Staatskapelle, with a 455-year-old reputation to guard, has the longest record of continuous work of any bunch of musicians.
Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, seems to base his policy in the present crisis on: 1) the need to avoid killing innocent Iraqis; 2) the need to uphold the authority of the United Nations; and 3) the need to avoid association with the crudities of the present American administration.
People assert that 100,000 or more Iraqis will be killed by the Anglo-American military action. Probably ten times that number have been killed by Saddam Hussein, often in the most atrocious circumstances, such as the torture of children.
Game over yet? Don't count on it. As Prime Minister Raffarin retorted to President Bush, 'It's not a game. It's not over.' French President Jacques Chirac and Dominique Galouzeau de Villepin, his foreign minister, are having a great war. Just look at the polls: a Sofres survey to be released on Friday will claim that 86 per cent of French people approve his handling of the Iraq crisis. That's more than the 82 per cent Chirac scored in last year's elections against the far-Right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.