Arts feature

Lloyd Evans

Show up and show off

The Edinburgh Festival was founded as a response to war. The inaugural event, held in 1947, was the brainchild of Rudolf Bing, the manager of Glyndebourne Opera, and Henry Harvey Wood, a British Council grandee. Both were convinced that a festival of music and theatre was needed to restore the artistic heritage of Europe after

More from Arts

Beethoven: Missa solemnis

When you first encounter it, Beethoven’s Missa solemnis can sound like the Ninth Symphony with more singing but no tunes. But the more I listen to it, the more I agree with the composer that it’s his greatest work — or, at least, up there with the last two piano sonatas and his String Quartet



Oliver Cotton is an RSC stalwart who looks like a man born to greatness. Google him. He has the fearless jawline of Napoleon, the diabolical stare of Heathcliff, the tumultuous eyebrows of Michelangelo and the streamlined quiff of Liberace. And there’s something richly corny about his appearance too, as if he were Bill Nighy done


Strong stuff

The strings sweep upwards, the horns surge, and Leoncavallo’s Zaza throws itself into your arms. We don’t know it yet, but we’ve just heard the drama’s focal point: what David Lynch would call its ‘eye of the duck moment’. The same music recurs near the end of Act One, as the fumbling attempts at seduction


1967 and all that

As you may have spotted, the BBC is marking the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality with an extended gay season. (And if you haven’t, I can only assume you’ve seen and heard no BBC trailers for months.) The centrepiece this week was Against the Law (BBC2, Wednesday), which dramatised the story of


Maximum wattage

On his deathbed in 1904, George Frederic Watts saw a extraordinary spectacle. He witnessed the universe coming into being: the ‘breath of the Creator acting on nebulous matter’ causing ‘agitating waves & revolving lines’ to fly out in all directions. With hindsight, it is tempting to conclude that Watts had a vision not, as he


Balkan brass

When brass instruments with button-operated valves were introduced in the first half of the 19th century, music-making changed. Once requiring a semi-professional approach, it could now be quickly mastered by large groups of working people. A noisy result were Britain’s colliery bands: but a more spirited upshot was Serbia’s trumpet tradition. Like the colliery bands, Serbian


Tricky, and slightly sicky

The Big Sick is a rom-com that’s smarter than most rom-coms, which isn’t saying much, admittedly. It stars a Muslim man from a Pakistani background as the romantic lead, which has to be all to the good, and one character does pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with the internet: ‘You go online and they hate Forrest


What stopped Stoppard?

Two programmes this week presented two radically different world views, or rather ways of life. Aditya Chakrabortty’s series for Radio 4, Decoding the News, looked at five words or phrases which have come to characterise how politics, finance and business operate in the UK. We entered a world of policy wonks and pundits, of words