Hallelujah for Dublin Premium

01 December 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Soon after the death of Leonard Cohen, the attention of the cultural world turns to the other musician most famous for writing a chorus turning on the word “Hallelujah!” The big Christmas show at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is Nick Drake’s play All the Angels: Handel and the First Messiah (6 December-12 February).

A Protestant at the Vatican Premium

01 December 2016 | by Christopher Lamb
Throughout his life Rembrandt was able to bridge the divides of Christianity. The Protestant son of a Catholic mother, he possessed a deep faith yet did not belong to any church; and though from northern Europe, he always drew heavily on Rome’s baroque tradition.

Britain’s toughest inmates Premium

01 December 2016 | by John Morrish
Put a violent criminal in prison and most people accept that he will eventually be released. Put a violent criminal into secure psychiatric care and there is a widespread view that he should stay there for ever, even though responsibility for his actions may lie, in whole or in part, with his illness.

Heaven and hell in Havana Premium

01 December 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Deepa Fernandes, who presented this absorbing contribution to the BBC’s “100 Women” season (23 November), paid her first visit to Havana as a fresh-faced 22-year-old back in the late 1990s.

A test of common humanity Premium

01 December 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
Belgium’s Dardenne brothers specialise in the sort of austere moral fables that cinema usually runs a mile from: drab settings, handheld cameras, not much humour, even less music.

Lost and found at sea Premium

24 November 2016 | by Robert Thicknesse
Every real opera composer has a unique thread running through his work: for Handel, compassion; for Mozart, reconciliation; for Wagner, redemption. Benjamin Britten’s fixation was innocence, its fragility – and its destruction.

Stop the clocks Premium

24 November 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
Twelve years ago, the Whitechapel Gallery staged an exhibition called “Faces in the Crowd” that aimed to re-establish the avant-garde credentials of figurative art. The show included a high proportion of artists’ videos, most of which passed me by in a blur.

Praising the Lord in Brixton Premium

24 November 2016 | by John Morrish
Anyone curious about the apparent success of the Pentecostal churches in retaining and building their congregations will have watched Life and Death the Pentecostal Way (20 November) with great interest.

Glenda takes the crown Premium

24 November 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Both Bleak House and King Lear are literary masterpieces, but there is a key difference in the audience’s experience. Across two readings of the Dickens novel, the style and content of the book stay constant; but see Shakespeare’s play twice and it is different each time – and starkly so in a pair of new high-profile versions.

Many happy returns Premium

24 November 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
A good starting point for a piece of “classic” drama is to try to establish some of the preconceptions brought to it by the original audience.

The light of Caravaggio Premium

17 November 2016 | by Mark Lawson
In the current “Beyond Caravaggio” show at the National Gallery in London, the artist’s masterpiece, The Seven Acts of Mercy, is shown only as a photograph. The picture never leaves the church in Naples where it was painted in 1607.

Making a drama out of a crisis Premium

17 November 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Contemporary political drama is notoriously tricky to bring to radio. The difficulty lies, alas, in the very immediacy relied upon to give it impact.

The woman behind the veil Premium

17 November 2016 | by Joanna Moorhead
Even in a Church with no deficit of mystery, there is a special place reserved for Carmelite nuns. These followers of the austere mystic, St Teresa of Avila, who live their lives behind a grille in a now-dwindling number of small monasteries dotted around the country, often seem to be an impossible enigma.

Verse on canvas Premium

17 November 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
There is a particular strain of English painting that springs from poetry: the work of William Blake is the most obvious example, but other English painters have had lyrical streaks. Turner used to caption his paintings with his own verses, and in the modern era Paul Nash (1889-1946) kept up the poetic tradition.

It is easy to forget, but prison is a punishment for families as much as for individuals. Young children are denied contact with a parent except under tightly restricted circumstances.

Going to town on an ideal Premium

10 November 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
If you are English, you may be unaware that 2016 is the quincentenary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. In More’s native London, the anniversary has passed almost unnoticed, apart from a few low-key events at Somerset House. But the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Flanders has gone to town on it, with a programme of no less than 78 Utopia-themed projects.

Silver screened Premium

10 November 2016 | by Mark Lawson
The rise of cinema led many to predict the demise of theatre. And, although the art forms coexist, the senior medium has increasingly made envious raids on the newcomer for material (numerous musicals adapted from movies) and design: sliding frames and projections have created a fluid and visually led approach that might be known as “screen-theatre”.

Beauty amid austerity Premium

10 November 2016 | by John Morrish
A new series or one-off drama by Stephen Poliakoff is always an event, but to get the most from them you have to make certain allowances.

Tragedy of pregnant nuns Premium

10 November 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
For cinema, the suffering of Poland is inexhaustible. Based on a true story, The Innocents follows the Oscar-winning Ida (2013) in its pained examination of how the country’s tragedy invaded even the most private lives.

Righting the songs Premium

10 November 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
As the fallout from Bob Dylan’s elevation to the Nobel laureateship continued fitfully to descend, this week-long examination of the power of the pop lyric could have hardly been more timely.

Handel on history Premium

03 November 2016 | by Robert Thicknesse
No biblical text was of more vivid importance to the England of 1739 than the story of Saul and David. The country had suffered tectonic regime change four times in the previous century, had executed the Lord’s anointed, substituted another with a foreign bloodline, been engaged for 50 years in war with a Catholic superpower bent on its extinction, and was still on the brink of civil war; the parallels with Israelite history were described weekly from pulpits across the land.

Mixed metropolis Premium

03 November 2016 | by Lucien de Guise
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art makes an ideal location for “Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven” – an exhibition about coexistence and how important a metropolis can be (until 8 January).

Nun too subtle Premium

03 November 2016 | by John Morrish
The poor are always with us. They are certainly with Sister Rita Lee, the indefatigable septuagenarian nun who runs the Lalley Welcome Centre in unlovely Collyhurst, Manchester. More to the point, Sister Rita is with the poor.

Electric Mozart Premium

03 November 2016 | by Mark Lawson
An inevitable consequence of long theatregoing is the tyranny of comparison. Although aged 18 when I saw Paul Scofield in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, no performance over the subsequent 36 years has matched Scofield’s vocal proteanism and sensual engagement with the audience.

The body as temple Premium

03 November 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The BBC “Faith in the World” week roamed entertainingly around the regional stations to bring us (among other highlights) husband-and-wife vicars from Berkshire and a Hindu temple established in a remote Norfolk village.

Boxing clever Premium

26 October 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Several exchanges in One Night in Miami – an award-winning American play now given its European premiere at London’s Donmar Warehouse – feel accidentally Shakespearean, as a character with a name from Macbeth – Malcolm – shares the stage with someone called Cassius, also found in Julius Caesar.

Memories of Aberfan Premium

26 October 2016 | by John Morrish
Among the several programmes devoted to the fiftieth anniversary of the Aberfan disaster, BBC Wales came up with the most original and most Welsh. Aberfan: The Green Hollow (23 October) was built around a poem by the prolific Owen Sheers.

Please God: a cuddle Premium

26 October 2016 | by Rick Jones
It was surely with impish humour that the sixteenth-century composer John Taverner set an eight-part polyphonic Mass around the tune of an irreverent folksong imploring Christ both for a warm westerly with rain and a warm cuddle back in bed.

Noise annoys Premium

26 October 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
Is silence golden? Patrick Shen’s meditative documentary certainly makes a case for it as a rare and precious commodity. In a frantic, jangled world where every inch of head-space feels under attack from noise – of traffic, of building work, of people yammering on their mobiles – the need for silence is becoming not merely a matter of etiquette but of mental health.

Hard to pin down Premium

26 October 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
As the product of an interracial union between a Gold Coast anti-colonialist and the daughter of Attlee’s “Red Chancellor”, Sir Stafford Cripps, the one a Methodist and the other an Anglican, Kwame Anthony Appiah seemed an A-grade choice to deliver this year’s Reith Lectures on the subject of identity.

Learning on the job Premium

20 October 2016 | by Dorothy Lepkowska
The Government is being urged to consider a new apprenticeship scheme in an effort to solve the recruitment crisis in teaching, as Dorothy Lepkowska reports

Not quite reality TV Premium

20 October 2016 | by Peter Stanford
At first glance the publicity material for The Young Pope (starts 27 October with a double episode) does not inspire much confidence; it is that word “young” that jars. Lenny Belardo, played by Jude Law, is a 47-year-old American cardinal who is an unknown whippersnapper going into the papal conclave, but emerges as Pope Pius XIII.

God vibrations Premium

20 October 2016 | by Annabel Miller
It is not often that a rock concert begins with a prayer, but that is how former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has opened the shows on his current tour, which will come to an end in the UK next week (28 October) with a final extravaganza at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

A bit of posh Premium

20 October 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Radio 3’s seventieth anniversary bash – to be accurate, its celebration of the founding of its predecessor, the Third Programme – began at the end of September.

Timeless conceit Premium

20 October 2016 | by Mark Lawson
The play by another dramatist that Alan Bennett would most like to have written, he told me in a recent interview, is J.B. Priestley’s When We Are Married. Bennett, who admits to finding story difficult, admires the 1938 comedy for its “perfect plot” and the representations, close to his heart, of Yorkshire character and speech.

Maternal agony Premium

20 October 2016 | by Rick Jones
The thirteenth-century monk who wrote the Latin poem Stabat Mater Dolorosa about Christ’s grieving mother (and therefore all grieving mothers) is loved, it seems, as never before. Sir James MacMillan’s setting of his rhythmic rhyme, premiered last Saturday at the Barbican, is the fitting conclusion to an imaginative set of five commissioned over the past three years by the Genesis Foundation.

To the Western Church, the Eastern Church has always seemed richly exotic, with its glittering mosaics, gilded iconostases and gleaming chandeliers – but it has traditionally reserved lavish decoration for its church interiors rather than its vestments. In 1274, when Pope Gregory X convened the Second Council of Lyons in an attempt to reunite the two Churches, the papal Curia’s extravagant taste in liturgical dress was a sticking point.

Cutting-edge Beckett Premium

12 October 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Samuel Beckett wrote 22 stage plays, the extreme infrequency and brevity of the later works suggesting that he felt he had done enough in theatre. In the modern fashion, though, there has been a posthumous attempt to expand his dramatic output.

Loathing in the name of God Premium

12 October 2016 | by Madeleine Bunting
America is so large and various that it is not difficult to find extremists there. British documentary makers have lived off them for years.

Love changes everything Premium

12 October 2016 | by Robert Thicknesse
On the face of it, Gaetano Donizetti’s jovial 1832 comedy is simple to the point of idiocy: rustic fancies chilly rich girl; she prefers moustachioed soldier; rustic buys “love potion” from dodgy travelling salesman; takes it – gets tiddly (it’s just wine), and his new Dutch courage wins him the girl.

Hoarder in the house Premium

12 October 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The opening instalment of this characteristically intelligent series (10-14 October) found presenter Matthew Sweet in animated conversation with a woman from Pontypridd called Sinead.

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