Rupert Christiansen

A short history of applause – and booing

A dank Tuesday evening in a West End theatre. The auditorium is barely two thirds full. The play is nothing special – certainly not spectacular. Your neighbour is struggling to stay awake. The reception, however, is tumultuous. The audience is on its feet, squealing, whistling and whooping as though someone has just found the cure

Arts Council England and the war on opera

Instructed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to move money away from London and reassign it to the regions as part of the Levelling Up strategy, Arts Council England has ended up making some very risky decisions. It has thrown funds at small untested groupuscules without a firm audience base and penalising major

Why the Arts Council should kill off ENO and ENB

Pity Arts Council England, least loved of our NGOs, understaffed and under-resourced, its arm’s-length status gnawed to the shoulder by DCMS ukases, the stinginess of the Treasury and the government’s (in some respects, welcome) indifference to our higher culture. In return for its annual grant-in-aid (currently £336 million), it is obliged to cheer-lead policies of

Paris’s glittering new museums

How do you manage a dictatorship? By producing ‘a succession of miracles’, according to Louis-Napoléon, that ‘dazzle and astonish’. In 1852 he inaugurated his Second Empire regime with a strategy of soft power predicated on the assumption that the loyalty of politically volatile Paris was to be won not by violent repression but by visible

Leave Bizet’s Carmen alone

I’ve always felt uncomfortably ambivalent about the work of Matthew Bourne. Of course, there is no disputing its infectious exuberance or its enormous appeal to a broad public beyond the ballet club. I suppose its eclectic mix of Ashton and MacMillan, camp jokiness, Hollywood movies and Broadway razzmatazz is quirkily unique too – at least

Why is dance so butch these days?

For an art form that once boldly set out to question conventional divisions of gender, ballet now seems to be retreating towards the butch – ironically, just as the rest of the world is moving obsessively to the femme. Scroll back a century or so and Nijinsky cross-dressed at masked balls, danced on pointe and