Damian Thompson

Mission impossible?

Just before Peter Donohoe played the last of Alexander Scriabin’s ten piano sonatas at the Guildhall’s Milton Court on Sunday, the autograph score of the piece was beamed on to the wall behind him. It was just a glimpse —- but enough to show us that Scriabin had the most beautiful musical calligraphy of any

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These days, Aubrey Powell is a genial 70-year-old who can be found most mornings having breakfast at his local Knightsbridge café. But in the late 1970s, he did something that surely no other human being has done before or since. He photographed a sheep lying on a psychiatrist’s couch on a beach in Hawaii. Its

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Ray Davies: Americana

There is some surprise that after all these years Ray Davies has turned his attention to America. He is the most quintessentially English of pop musicians, a witty and acute observer of the British way of life whose best tunes were drawn from music hall and calypso — even while, with his brother Dave, he

Revolutionary road

Cairo is deceptively calm, says Egyptian film-maker Mohamed Diab. ‘People were so scared from the fighting in the streets that now all they want is stability at any price,’ he explains. ‘But if you look closely at the situation, it’s worse than it was with Mubarak in charge when it comes to freedom of speech,


Pleasing pedantry

Christopher Hampton’s 1968 play The Philanthropist examines the romantic travails of Philip, a cerebral university philologist, forced to choose between his unexciting fiancée and a predatory seductress. The play’s opening scene contains one of the most brilliant comic shocks in all drama. And the paradoxes and flashes of Hamptonian wit are an everlasting treat. ‘I’m


Fallen angel

The Adèsives were out in force at Covent Garden last Monday for the UK première of their hero’s third opera, The Exterminating Angel, unable to contain their rapture until the piece was over, yelling their excitement even at the interval. Thomas Adès’s opera is closely based on Buñuel’s film of 1962, with the text adapted


The real deal | 27 April 2017

The other day I had a very dispiriting conversation with a TV industry insider. It turns out that everything you see on reality TV is fake. It’s the ‘everything’ part that really bothered me. Obviously, we all sort of know that most TV is faked: that close-ups on wildlife documentaries are sometimes filmed in zoos


A familiar Ring

Herbert von Karajan established the Easter Festival in Salzburg 50 years ago with a production of Die Walküre that is now considered legendary. In the sense that legends are rooted in memory, and mythological in substance, that much is true. Which is not to damn it with faint praise. This revival, staged by Vera Nemirova,


Girl power | 27 April 2017

Lady Macbeth, which has nothing to do with boring old Shakespeare beyond indicating a certain archetype (huge sighs of relief all round), is a British period drama about a young woman who, trapped in a cold, loveless marriage, finds sexual passion elsewhere, and runs with it. And runs with it. And runs with it. And


A square dance in Heaven

It’s 500 years since Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, sparking what would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation. His superficial complaint was against the corrupt practice of indulgences, the Catholic Church teasing money out of the gullible and persuading them that they could