ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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AT A time when the Arts Council is under fire as a collective of bureaucrats meddling in musical matters it isn't qualified to determine, it is interesting to be reminded of what happens in other countries. My colleague Michael White has just returned from Finland - a country where musical institutions are run by musicians themselves. He was attending the opening of the new pounds 100m Helsinki Opera House, whose general intendant is the baritone Walton Gronroos. Last week, at the official opening ceremony, Mr Gronroos gave a speech. He'd been going a few minutes when, without warning, the Opera House orchestra started to accompany him - and he burst into song, delivering the rest of his address as a sort of operatic scena. Most extraordinary; and an interesting precedent for Jeremy Isaacs at our own Royal Opera. I look forward to hearing his top register. Indeed, in the light of recent events, I dare say many a London orchestral musician looks forward to getting a few Arts Council officials behind the back desks.

AS A television viewer of taste and discernment, I have been glued to the box on Sunday nights for Andrew Davies's adaptation of To Play the King (BBC1). The series is a joy, and has been rightly praised by my colleagues on other parts of this newspaper. One thing seems to have passed them by, however: the presence of a suave television reporter, who addresses the nation from outside No 10. His face is familiar. Could it really be Philip, the suave and plummily voiced lodger played by Don Warrington (above) in Rising Damp, the great Seventies sitcom? Indeed it could. But that was years ago (the series finished in 1978). What has he been up to in the interim? Well, he told me this week, he 'has been concentrating on the theatre more than television'. Does this mean the enduring popularity of the spiky sitcom has had long-term effects on his television career? 'It tends to put a very powerful stamp on you. No matter what you do, it's still what people talk about. It really has entered into the British consciousness.' Warrington returns to television soon with a part in an ITV comedy, The Ten Per Centers. 'Would you believe I'm playing a frontman for a current affairs programme? Isn't life extraordinary?' You might say that; of course, I couldn't possibly comment.