A woman can’t possibly conduct this, bemoaned some. It’s a bit like asking one to reverse-park their Ford Ka into a not-so-tight spot. And an American? Good grief, it’s the end of civilisation as we know it, lamented others. It is as though the spirit of Wallis Simpson had returned from Baltimore to purloin the Crown of England. The Proms are international, sure, but the Last Night is a peculiarly British affair, and at all costs we must preserve this sacred institution from the BBC’s interminable trendy ‘modernising’ and its lefty notions of political ‘progress’. Continue reading →
The 2013 Proms season begins in just a fortnight. Every year since I was 14 and thoroughly captivated by counterpoint, I’ve eagerly awaited publication of the BBC’s lavish Proms brochure. Some years, of course, it’s more lavish than others. I used to open it up and quickly highlight all the Beethoven gigs, which usually determined the magnitude of my spiritual rapture and sublime ecstasy. Now I’m a bit more eclectic in my tastes, and embrace just about anything except Bartók.
There are some undoubted highlights this season, which marks the 200th anniversary of the births of Wagner and Verdi (1813 was a vintage year). 2013 is also the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten and the 50th anniversary of the creation of Dr Who (sorry to mention that in the same paragraph, but this column is very broadly about ‘culture’ and there’s bound to be a few ConHomies who prefer Time Lords and Daleks to latent Risorgimento and synthesised Gesamtkunstwerk). Continue reading →
Rupert Everett and Kara Tointon. Photo by Hugo Glendenning.
It is very difficult watching a play when the text has been almost entirely appropriated by one of the most successful theatrical partnerships in history, and made into the libretto of one of the greatest musicals of all time. It’s not that George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion cannot now exist independently of Lerner and Loewe’s legendary treatment in My Fair Lady; it’s simply that the two have become symbiotic to the extent that you can’t help hearing a cue for a song in just about every scene.
But the problem with Philip Prowse’s Pygmalion is not so much that it lacks bursts of ‘Why can’t the English’ and ‘Wouldn’t it be loverly?’; it’s that a great deal of Shaw’s sizzling wit, sociological perception and political acumen fail to find adequate expression in Rupert Everett’s incarnation of Henry Higgins. The play begins rather heavily with Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ (not sure why), which prepares us for nothing but Everett’s interminable brooding and indulgent stream of pomposity. I don’t like beginning a theatre review with ‘the problem’, but there you have it. Continue reading →