Selling Waste Food – Make Mine a Harlequin

Jake Tilson's design for Pepe's Lefotovers Menu in Homage to Alicia Rios

  “One third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted before it is eaten, the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization estimates,” said a BBC bulletin on 3 July. The 34th annual Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery took place 11-13 July 2014 at St Catherine’s College on the topic “Food & Markets.” Waste was on our minds. It might seem a far cry from the subjects … [Read more...]

Maria, Violetta and Opera Queens

Joyce DiDonato as Maria Stuarda about to lose her head (by Bill Cooper)

  One of my greatest regrets is that I failed to see Maria Callas at Covent Garden in 1962 and 1964. The truth is that, at the time, tickets seemed very expensive to me (I was only 21 in 1962, and only visiting Britain from the US, though I was at university in London in 1964); and it never occurred to me that it might be my last chance to see a live performance by the greatest singer … [Read more...]

Star-struck and lazy

Time and the exigencies of newspaper production meant that few reviewers were able to group together two theatre productions that opened recently in London, and are a natural fit. It’s a pity, but the British national papers are going the way of American local ones and cutting down the space or even eliminating reviews of every kind – except, it would appear, restaurant reviews. Longer, more … [Read more...]

Facing the Music

Clive Barda

Sometimes you see and hear a production of an opera that makes you rethink the story of the piece; less frequently, you hear the music differently. This last happened to me twice last week, on successive nights. The first was Garsington Opera at Wormsley’s ’s superb The Cunning Little Vixen, directed by Daniel Slater and designed gorgeously by Robert Innes Hopkins. What stuck me forcefully was … [Read more...]

Opera: black tie and picnic, circus or seminar?

Garsington Opera Pavilion by Night
photo Mike Hoban

Picture this. Near the end of Act I of Fidelio, the prisoners are just being released from their dungeon. You, the audience, are sitting in a glassed-in auditorium. The first prisoner climbs onto the stage and the sun comes up in the heavens – the real sun, not stage-lighting. As Rocco finally agrees to let them enjoy the miraculously-timed appearance of the sun, the prisoners walk into an … [Read more...]

Artistic Merit, the Vagaries of Fashion and the Revenge of the Marketplace: a memory or two

Lynn Chadwick, Crouching Beast 1, 1990

There is a photograph of the British sculptor, Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003) by Lee Miller. It was taken in 1957 in East Sussex in the garden at Farley Farm (where she lived with her husband, Roland Penrose). Lynn is shown, seated on the ground, leaning against a sapling, cigarette in mouth, beside a tray of kitchen knives, which he is sharpening, He is totally nude, and in very good shape. Coming … [Read more...]

Genius Deserves Transfer


At the wonderful, modest Old Red Lion Theatre, above the famous pub in Islington, North London, is a genius play by a 29-year-old, Moses Raine, directed by his not much older, equally skilled sister, Nina Raine. Donkey Heart is a Chekhovian drama set in contemporary Russia – a little comic, a lot wistful, with an undercurrent of past terrors gently meandering though its two acts. The pub … [Read more...]

Opera and Fat Lady Fashions


photograph by Bill Cooper Opera has caught the eye (rather than the ear) of the British people recently – and of the New York Times and Time Magazine – because several male colleagues of mine have been damned for their negative comments on the appearance of the mezzo singing the title role in Glyndebourne’s new production of Der Rosenkavalier. Some of them have found Tara Erraught’s body-type … [Read more...]

A Supremely Improbable Così

Overture photo Mike Hoban

Of the Mozart/da Ponte operas, Così fan tutte was the least appreciated until fairly recent times. Some high-minded critics, such as the psychoanalyst, James Strachey (brother of the more famous Lytton), and also a musicologist who pronounced the composer’s name as Moz-ahr’, thought the plot a touch trivial. James Strachey wrote the original programme notes for the Glyndebourne productions of the … [Read more...]

Does Britain’s new Minister for Culture like opera?

Sajid Javid, new Minister for Culture

A couple of days ago I sent a brief email to my MP about the Minister for Culture. My MP happens to be PM, the Prime Minister, David Cameron. I said that his Culture Minister Maria Miller, who'd been under attack for falsifying her expenses and for making only a perfunctory apology to the House of Commons when ordered to do so by a parliamentary commission, needed to resign or be sacked. The fact … [Read more...]