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The Independent Culture

Missa Solemnis

The 103rd season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts presented by the BBC opened with Bernard Haitink conducting Karita Mattila, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Herbert Lippert, Anthony Michaels-Moore, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and chorus in Beethoven's choral masterpiece, Missa Solemnis.

Stephen Johnson saluted the technical security and intellectual conviction but "the earth failed to move; the tingle-o-meter hardly twitched." "Performing it is itself a test of faith ... one that Bernard Haitink not merely endured but surmounted," trumpeted the Telegraph. "A performance that shook the rafters, exhilarated the senses

and stirred the soul ... What is it about this concert series that lifts the best musicians to superhuman levels of endeavour?" wondered The Times. "Deeply felt ... the kind of fighting spirit we want to start the series," affirmed the FT. " A shame and missed opportunity that [the performance] was only half-strength ... A concert unsure of its aim," the Standard. "Began well enough," burbled The Spectator.

Continuing at the Royal Albert Hall (0171-589 8212) and live on Radio 3 (plus next day repeats) until 13 Sept.

A good start to another year of this unique event. With 66 concerts still to go and tickets from pounds 3, can you afford to miss this? the PLAY Suzanna Andler

Julie Christie stars as a wealthy wife caught between her womanising husband and her first lover in a play by Marguerite Duras, designed by Johan Engels and directed by Lindy Davies, whose Old Times with Christie was startlingly successful. With Julie Legrand and Robert Hickson.

Paul Taylor was unmoved by Christie's "eye-swivel responses worthy of Miss Babs in Acorn Antiques ... You'd get more gripping drama from watching your fridge defrost." "Duras, alas, is not famous for her jokes ... rather like a French version of an Anita Brookner novel," gagged the FT. "It is not that the play has dated particularly with the passing decades, it's just that every scene takes decades to pass," growled the Telegraph. "Christie radiates a very English, district nurse common sense ... a decided misfire," opined The Guardian. "Duras's barking, menopausal play," snorted The Express. "No doubting its class, especially when as physically elegant and emotionally fine an actress as Christie is in control," allowed The Times.

At the Minerva Studio, Chichester (01243-781312) to 9 Aug.

For die-hard Christie fans only. To see her at her best, rent the video of Don't Look Now instead. the FILM Love! Valour! Compassion! A gay Friends meets The Big Chill as eight guys spend three weekends together in Terrence McNally's screen-play of his Broadway award-winner, filmed by its stage director, first-timer Joe Mantello. Jason Alexander (from Seinfeld) replaces Nathan Lane, otherwise the cast remains intact.

Adam Mars-Jones winced at the sentimentality. "Characters alternately bitch, reminisce and wallow." "For all the film's flashes of wit or tenderness, there are enough irritants here to put your back up, whatever your sexual stripe," sneered The Times. "Any more artfully ravishing pathos and we could expect the next visitor to be Giacomo Puccini," scoffed the FT. "It's not really life we're watching, it's lifestyles," sniped the Standard. "The sound of theatre talking to itself. You can just about get away with that on stage, but not on film," argued The Spectator. "Unexpectedly stinging ... leaves the neck-hairs standing," approved Time Out. "Moves easily from comedy through drama into near tragedy," nodded The Guardian.

Cert 15 (a pleasant surprise from the less than pro-gay British Board of Film Classification), 114 mins More a case of Love! Velour! Compassion! The Boys in the Band goes Nineties.