The Diary: The Enchanted Pig, Delaroche, Sarah Palin, Ruth Padel and Spencer Tunick's 'naked' installations


When playing a pig is no fairy tale


Swine flu threatened to hamper the progress of the Royal Opera House's rehearsals of 'The Enchanted Pig', Jonathan Dove's opera for children, which opens in the Linbury Studio Theatre on 11 December.

In a rather bizarre twist of irony, Simon Wilding, the singer who is performing the role of the pig, was taken ill with swine flu, and after a bout of fever and enforced bed-rest, has only just resumed rehearsals. Derek Welton was forced to cover the role in his absence. A ROH insider said: "He's feeling a bit better and has started rehearsals, but he was really rather poorly with it, and had quite a high fever." Dove and the opera's writer, Alasdair Middleton, have based the drama on a gritty "anti-fairytale" inspired by Romanian, Norwegian and classic folk stories about a princess who discovers she is to marry a hairy pig. Flora is the youngest daughter of King Hildebrand and being a feisty sort of girl, is undeterred by the swinish appearance of her new husband. When he is abducted by a wicked crone she sets out to rescue him.

All white on night

The Louvre's second-best-selling "postcard" image is coming to London, declared Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery. A Delaroche exhibition next year is part of a plan to "re-appraise" his work (long misunderstood as a bit tacky). The image is 'Young Christian Martyr', a decidedly clichéd portrait of a dying woman in white flowing robes lying in a river with a halo bobbing above her head is an example of Delaroche's "continued interest in female martyrdom," said Dr Penny. Not sure it works for a reappraisal though.

Beyond the Palin

Sarah Palin's book, Going Rogue, was launched in America last week. Back home, it wasn't so simple, or not in the offices of HarperCollins, at least. Speaking to the UK branch, I was told the book was not coming here. HarperCollins USA said the same thing. So the book's not coming?, I asked HarperCollins UK some days later and was reassured we wouldn't see it in our bookstores. That was in the morning. By the afternoon, her book was making its way here, said HarperCollins US (in the UK). And that's PR? Right.

Padel steers her craft to fertile waters

Ruth Padel, she of the Oxford professor of poetry saga, has been delving into prose, ecology, migration and beyond. She is soon to bring out her first novel ("I'm very scared about that"), featuring tigers and a tropical field biologist in India; she is in the middle of penning 'The Mara Crossing', a mix of prose and poetry situated around a river crossing for migrating wilderbeest and zebra which is filled with the largest crocodiles in Africa ("It seems to me to sum up the dangers and hardship of migration"); she's just been nominated for the Costa prize; and she's written a poem on barnacles and humpback whales that was projected on to the front of the Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts last week. A rather impressive comeback from scandal, by any standards.

Barely responsive to photo opportunity

Volunteers who signed up to take their clothes off at London's Shoreditch House last September for one of Spencer Tunick's "naked" installations, did so on a promise of receiving a limited-edition photograph in exchange for their bravery. It was a cold day but they obliged the artist by jumping into the outdoor pool. In spite of the fuss made over leaving addresses for the photo to be posted, some have waited for over a year. Shoreditch House, when asked, blamed an errant post, and promptly stumped up signed first-edition images to two aggrieved parties.

a.akbar@independent.co.uk

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