ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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I SEE that the trick of using of erotic pictures to pull punters in to operas which are about as erotic as a pair of green underpants has at last been noted by the Advertising Standards Authority, and opera companies are having to come clean about what's really on offer. Welsh National Opera has just issued a leaflet for a new production of Elektra which has a photo of a naked woman fingering her breasts in the shower. You may not recognise the scene from Strauss's score, and you may not find it in David Alden's staging, as the photo carries a disclaimer: 'Please note the production is unlikely to contain nudity.' I applaud this new honesty and look forward to being asked to note that Ms X is far too old for her role, Signor Y has no top C, and the rest of the cast can't act.

ON THE subject of sexual marketing, I learn that Madonna's new album is to be called Erotica. Now I am an easy-going sort of guy, and in the periodic arguments between the rock world and the censorship lobby I seldom find myself siding with the censors. But this has brought out the Mrs Tipper Gore in me. Madonna's music is popular with small children. Up to now, her more, ah, adult behaviour has been confined to videos, which can be left out of daytime television, the film In Bed with Madonna, which had a 15 certificate, and concerts, which parents don't have to take tiny tots to. Her song titles have mostly been notable for their inoffensiveness. Now we are going to have seven-year-olds walking into record shops and asking for Erotica, and going home and asking mummy what it means, which seems a shame. In fact a double shame, because from every other point of view, it's a great title.

MY NOTE on the sad gulf between Asif Iqbal's gifts as a cricketer and as a commentator may have been unfair. It's not that he is not bad, says Stephen Bradley of Poulton-le-Fylde; he's so bad, he has become a cult figure. 'Quite a few non- cricket fans tune in purely to hear his ridiculous remarks.' Meanwhile, in Worcester, Olwen Buglass is 'seething with rage' at Fred Trueman, or as she calls him, the Yorkshire Oaf. 'I wouldn't dream of nagging my family,' she says, 'as he nagged Radio 3 listeners about the hapless Hick. To me, he represents what's wrong with Britain - too much looking back, and gross insularity.' In case anyone got the wrong idea, I'd like to make it quite clear that I am no Trueman fan.

A PERSISTENT theme in my mailbag is that compact discs are not just too expensive, they should not have been introduced in the first place - what was wrong with good old vinyl? Now the point has been taken up by Neil Young, the Canadian noise-meister and

holder of forthright opinions. In na article for Guitar Player, he writes: 'I would like to hear guitars again, with the warmth, the highs, the lows, the air, the electricity, the vibrancy of something that's real . . . It's an insult to the brain and heart and feelings to have to listen to this (the CD of his album Everyone Knows This is Nowhere).' And, he might have added if he lived in Britain, to pay through the nose for the privilege. If you are going to buy CDs, please don't pay full price if you can help it.

THE QUESTION of what was the most important arts event in Britain in the past 50 years (C&W, 19 July and 2 August) will be addressed in two weeks' time. (I have next week off, thanks to our bumper Edinburgh supplement.) A bottle of champagne remains on offer for the most persuasive suggestion: write to me at 40 City Rd, London EC1Y 2DB, or fax 071-956 1469.