Poor old Richard Wagner! You spend a third of your life constructing The Ring of the Nibelung – surely the biggest one-man artwork in history – and a mere 150 years later most even of the culturally literate have only a dim (and probably contemptuous) awareness of it as some peculiar, possibly proto-Nazi manifesto stuffed with elves, dragons and gigantic blondes in horned helmets. Oh, and the “Ride of the Valkyries”.
One act of mercy Premium28 April 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
It is the thing you have half-imagined, could scarcely believe, possibly had nightmares about. Son of Saul brings us close – as close as cinema will ever get – to the dragon’s mouth of the Holocaust.
The BBC’s celebration of the Queen’s ninetieth birthday was wonderfully site-appropriate. While BBC1 – among much else – offered Nicholas Witchell’s matey encounter with Prince William, the World Service weighed in with Sir David Cannadine’s sober analysis of Her Majesty’s role as an international stateswoman (20 April).
At evensong on 20 September 1966, sharp-eyed worshippers at Chichester Cathedral noticed that one of the canons was wearing dark glasses. Charitable observers might have attributed this to conjunctivitis, had it not been for a glaringly obvious explanation.
Rebroadcast to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Evelyn Waugh’s death on Easter Sunday 1966, this television interview from June 1960 began with an archive clip of the host, John Freeman, recalling his trepidation at having to deal with such a legendarily irascible figure.
One hundred years ago this month, an event took place in central London that was effectively the Live Aid of its day. It was April 1916, and Britain was in the throes of the First World War. Death, danger and destruction were all around; the nation’s young men were falling like flies in the battles that were raging in trenches in foreign fields.
In the cast of the first non-London production of Harold Pinter’s second play The Birthday Party was a young Scarborough actor called Alan Ayckbourn. And, although Pinter’s career is completed while Ayckbourn’s continues, the two men remain linked as the English dramatists whose works from the 1960s and 1970s are most regularly produced. A lavish revival from each backlist coincidentally opened last week.
Titanic troubles Premium14 April 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
Mark Cousins’ cine-memoir opens with a lightning storm; a fitting overture to the violent convulsions that have shaken his native city to the verge of despair.
At the start of Europe: Them or Us (12 April) Nick Robinson stood on the white cliffs of Dover and reminded us that we are separated from the continent by geography and history. It was a pity to start with a pair of clichés, verbal and visual, but he recovered to produce a thorough and interesting programme.
The 100th anniversary of the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising has been much marked in the media over the past few days and weeks. But according to John Gilhooly, the Limerick-born director of London’s Wigmore Hall, the real focus of the centenary should not be war and violence, it should be reconciliation, mutual friendship and a shared cultural heritage.
In a nod to the centenary of the Easter Rising, BBC 4 broadcast a celebration of W.B. Yeats, who wrote about that event with a profound ambivalence. Bob Geldof on W.B. Yeats: A Fanatic Heart was thorough, informative and respectful – and passionate.
The American dramatist Lorraine Hansberry (1930-65) is known only for A Raisin in the Sun, her 1957 African-American domestic drama that has just completed a British tour by the Eclipse Theatre Company. That play – and the song “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, written as a musical eulogy by Nina Simone, a friend and admirer – seemed likely to be her cultural legacy.
Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo, the effervescent impresario of that station’s “rockest record” and its celebrated “Live Lounge” feature, was leaving the Metro on her way to take part in last March’s Paris half-marathon when her mobile phone rang.
In the middle of the Louvre’s Mona Lisa room, an endless queue of tourists snakes around a maze of control barriers for a moment’s audience with the world’s most famous painting. What is it about the Mona Lisa that exerts this magnetism? The answer lies in the subject’s mystique.
It wasn’t conceived as a paschal ballad, but somehow it felt completely right to be belting out “High Hopes” on Easter Sunday evening with Kodaline. The song is all about redemption, and beginning again, and fresh starts; and there was a distinctly hymn-like quality to its rousing rendition in the cathedral of Hammersmith Apollo.
There has surely been no writer more prolific than Georges Simenon. In a career lasting more than 60 years, he produced hundreds of novels and stories. But his best-known works are the “Maigret” books, a regular subject of television adaptation.
Every year, at about this time, the BBC discovers Christianity. It jemmies open a strongbox marked Faith, has a root around inside, then firmly clamps it shut. Then it leaves it alone, usually for another year, although if it’s feeling brave it might take a peek inside at Christmas.
The Bach Choir’s Palm Sunday performance of their namesake’s St Matthew Passion is a London tradition dating to the 1930s. Its heyday was under the late Sir David Willcocks in whose cherished memory the present performance, the first since his death, was given.
When movies square up to the story of the Resurrection, restraint has rarely been the watchword. From the bloated pieties of The Greatest Story Ever Told to the brutish torture-fest of Mel Gibson’s infamous The Passion of The Christ, the film-going faithful have been obliged to tread a via dolorosa that has either numbed them with shock or infantilised them with awe.
Both born in 1910 and given the same Christian name, Jean Anouilh and Jean Genet became two of the major figures of twentieth-century French drama before dying within a year of each other in the mid-1980s. The men align again with the simultaneous opening in London of revivals of the plays that first made their reputations.
The title of this immensely scary investigation turned out to refer to the celebrated Hollywood movie The Matrix. Those of its cast who swallowed the scarlet capsule came instantly to understand the machine-bred tyranny that surrounded them. To go for the blue option, on the other hand, was to sink into the torpor of collective delusion.
“Hinterland” once had a rather specific meaning in the economic geography of empire: the inland territory – empty or resource-rich – behind a coastal possession. Then Denis Healey hijacked it: the old wag referred to Mrs Thatcher as having none of that saving touch of general culture that might have softened and humanised a mind bent on one direction only.
If you watch television at all, you have probably seen the Van Tulleken brothers. Chris and Xand are handsome, privately educated doctors, separated by seven minutes in age and half an inch in height. They present the sort of programmes where posh people in white coats tell the rest of us what to eat.
Multiple walk-outs and even carry-outs of horrified audience members have been reported from the National Theatre’s revival of Sarah Kane’s Cleansed, and more sensitive readers may want to avoid not only the production but even some of the details in this review.
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