Cries & Whispers

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ON MONDAY the Financial Times launched a tirade about standards of dress at the Royal Opera House. The FT ballet critic, Clement Crisp, bewailed the 'dimness and sometimes dinginess of the way people outfit themselves' for both ballet and opera. 'Should not men make some attempt at neatness?' Crisp enquired. 'I record with some disbelief that latterly I have seen men in shirt-sleeves . . .' Ye gods] Ye stalls, too]

The women didn't escape, either: he'd seen some in T-shirts, others in 'those fearsome leggings which expose far too much thunderous haunch on all but the slimmest'. So on Tuesday I went to Covent Garden to see Aida, and what he was on about.

There was indeed a problem with standards of dress - they were too high. Most of the men were in ties and worsted suits, which was ridiculous on a hot night with no air-conditioning. They took off the jackets when they sat down, but they could hardly take off their trousers, and they didn't loosen their ties. Out on the streets, all was unstructured beige linen; inside, it barely got a look-in. (I, since you ask, was in a navy linen suit, of the structured variety, and open-neck shirt.) The Opera House has a ticket offer going with the FT, of all papers, and I had high hopes of finding a few scruffs among Crisp's own people; but they too were dressed for the office in April.

One brave soul wore a T-shirt, but he was a man. The women were more sensibly attired, if no less tidy - summer frocks, floral skirts, no leggings. I looked in vain for thunderous haunch, though there was the odd thunderous paunch (especially on stage). Squeezed into velour seats, waiting 95 minutes for an interval, fanning ourselves with a programme that has aspirations to being a glossy magazine, we were not a happy audience. When the interval finally came, we belted out into Bow Street. And I'm afraid I never belted back in. If the Opera House wants to put people off, enforcing an outdated dress code in a heatwave would be one way to do it.

LAST WEEK I expressed some bafflement at the booing of the Glyndebourne Don Giovanni, and asked the booers to tell us what had made them do it. Not one responded. Various explanations come to mind. Either booers don't read the Independent on Sunday. Or booers do, but Glyndebourne first- nighters don't. Or they do, but they're feeling a bit sheepish now, and don't want to step into the glare of publicity. I like to think that the first of these is the right one. But in case it's the last, a final offer: we won't give your name. So please - drop me a line, either by post, to Arts Desk, IoS, 40 City Rd, London EC1Y 2DB, or by fax, to 071-956 1469.

STARTING today, a new weekly feature: the arts clerihew. A clerihew, as you know, is a four-line poem about a well- known person, whose name supplies the first line. The rhyme scheme is AABB, and there is a healthy disregard for scansion. Each week we shall offer a clerihew about a topical figure in the arts, which, as ever, are defined broadly. Submissions welcome: pounds 5 for each one published. We kick off with this one:

Barry Davies

Used to be to BBC football commentary what Avis

Is to car-hire. But now, his performance last Sunday asserts,

He's Hertz.