Not pleasant, and not in tune, but unarguably compelling: Royal Opera’s Nabucco reviewed

Nabucco, said Giuseppe Verdi, ‘was born under a lucky star’. It was both his last throw of the dice and his first undisputed hit, composed after the failure of Un giorno di regno and the death of his young wife and two children had driven him to abandon music outright. The story (at least, as Verdi told it) was that the director of La Scala had forced him to accept a libretto on the Biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar, and that when a page fell open on the chorus ‘Va, pensiero’ the muse returned. Citation needed, possibly, but there’s no question that the ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’ is one of

Bigamists, lunatics and adventurers: the raucous world of 19th century British music

For a patriotic German in the decades before Bismarck, Britain’s power was an object of envy. But there was one thing, at least, that you could always hold over the Anglo-Saxons on their foggy little island. On 1 January 1837, Robert Schumann sat down in Leipzig to hear a new piano concerto by the 20-year-old William Sterndale Bennett. ‘An English composer; no composer,’ commented his neighbour, smugly, before the music started. Few 19th-century German music-lovers failed to point out that the land of Shakespeare had somehow failed to produce a single really significant composer since the late 17th century. We know how that story ended; and if you want to