Wordless voices Premium

12 January 2017 | by Rick Jones
It is one of the mysteries of life that the language of music, while being inadequate to describe a chair or what we had for lunch, can say everything there is to say about fear, love, awe and other complex emotions that words often struggle with.

New faces and past times Premium

12 January 2017 | by Mark Lawson
A pair of much anticipated revivals in the shadow of Waterloo Bridge represent theatre respectively at its most feminine and masculine.

Techno trap Premium

12 January 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Very seldom do I emerge from a cinema longing to burst into song and to tap dance along the pavement. But that is how I felt coming out of La La Land, and maybe you will too.

Singing and dancing in LA Premium

12 January 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
Very seldom do I emerge from a cinema longing to burst into song and to tap dance along the pavement. But that is how I felt coming out of La La Land, and maybe you will too.

The price of inheritance Premium

12 January 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Now that the British actor Tom Hardy has become a Hollywood star, he can choose his projects – and in the lavish new eight-episode miniseries Taboo (7 January), he told a newspaper, he was offered the kind of starring role he has always wanted: part Bill Sikes, part Hannibal Lector and with a dash of Mr Darcy thrown in.

Of saints and sinners Premium

04 January 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Unusual choices of two seasonal shows put Catholicism unexpectedly centre stage in London theatre. In the final scene of one, a piece of wall falls down to reveal a hidden monstrance, while the other closes with an image of a sunlit altar set for Mass.

Youth and the end of an epoch Premium

04 January 2017 | by Robert Thicknesse
Richard Strauss’ best-known work looks like the popular idea of what opera is: an anguished soprano drifts around a drawing room in a big frock while the massive orchestra heaves and cascades around her in tones of impossible voluptuousness. What is she on about? Does it matter?

A new Madonna in town Premium

04 January 2017 | by Joanna Moorhead
It is impossible not to feel overwhelmed by the British Museum. The antidote, as with all museums, is to home in on one gallery or period of history; or even one object – particularly if that object is the museum’s most significant recent acquisition, a comely 30in tall alabaster sculpture of the Virgin Mary and her infant son.

Showing the invisible Premium

04 January 2017 | by Laura Gascoigne
Outside the Imperial War Museum, a small boy runs to photograph the 15in naval guns on his father’s phone. During the holidays the museum is a magnet for boys of all ages, bursting as it is with military toys. But in the excitement over the monumental hardware, some smaller exhibits are being overlooked.

Investigating a massacre Premium

04 January 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
The panel of talking heads convened in Times columnist Tim Montgomerie’s absorbing documentary (28 December) had grave doubts over the authenticity of King Herod’s massacre of male newborns in the Bethlehem area.

A nativity melting pot Premium

15 December 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
In 1611, the Dominicans of San Pedro Mártir in Toledo were looking for an artist to paint an altarpiece for their new church. The city’s most famous artist, El Greco, was approaching 70 and the friars wanted a new look for their new building, so they hired a young artist who had just returned from Rome versed in the revolutionary style of religious realism pioneered by Caravaggio.

There is a traditional Christmas programme this year: two hours of carols, readings, visits to churches and guest appearances by David Suchet and The Priests.

A host of Hallelujahs Premium

15 December 2016 | by Rick Jones
In the church of St Michael’s Cornhill in the City of London on Monday 19 December the young award-winning organist of Toulouse cathedral Jem Stephenson plays a lunchtime rendition of Messiaen’s organ cycle La Nativité du Seigneur on the recently restored Renatus Harris instrument built in 1684.

Saving the best for last Premium

15 December 2016 | by Mark Lawson
As Christmas approaches, a heavily pregnant woman seeks decent accommodation, but is forced to make do with rough, public, temporary shelter. This familiar scenario is transformed in the National Theatre’s extraordinary seasonal offering.

The sounds of the season Premium

15 December 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
If national treasures are with us week in and week out, then Christmas in radio land is the home of that wholly superior entity, the national institution.

Recycled and born again Premium

08 December 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
Evidence of global change is all around us, but to see living proof gathered under one paraboloid roof, visit the new Design Museum on Kensington High Street in west London.

Back to the future Premium

08 December 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Not formally a double-bill, the latest productions on the main and studio stages at the Royal Court nevertheless make a fascinating couple.

Voice of Mary Premium

08 December 2016 | by Rick Jones
That England was once known as the Garden of Mary is clear from the large number of medieval City of London churches dedicated to Mary and the large amount of Marian music that survived the Reformation.

Love letters at the Vatican Premium

08 December 2016 | by John Morrish
In Six Wives with Lucy Worsley (from 7 December), a three-part series on the marital history of Henry VIII, the historian was thrilled about securing access to the Vatican library where, for the first time, she was allowed to show on camera 17 letters, amorous in tone, from Henry to Anne Boleyn.

Not by the book Premium

08 December 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Despite its highly restricted format, Witness, in which Claire Bowes sits down to interrogate the survivors of significant moments in history, always packs in a great deal.

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.

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