The Week In Radio: Relax to arias of outstanding natural beauty

Opera is brilliant for the blood pressure. According to research, Verdi's arias, which follow musical phrases that are 10 seconds long, synchronise perfectly with the natural cardiovascular rhythm. When stroke and cardiac patients were played rousing operatic music like Puccini's Nessun Dorma, full of crescendos and diminuendos that alternately arouse and relax the body, they experienced lowered blood pressure and better outcomes.

I throw this in because, God knows, it's hard to market opera, though the BBC's new opera season, launched last week, should help. For an art form that uses such masses of performers, opera has rarely managed to be an art form for the masses and now it's most obviously for the minority. Cue a tentative toe into the waters of Simon Cowell culture, which will see a summer of celebrity-led opera features across TV and radio networks. Radio 2 is launching a search for a new opera star with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and Radio 3 has come up with The Nation's Favourite Aria, in which its listeners will be encouraged to sift through a selection of Monteverdi, Mozart and Bernstein and come up with a winner.

In the old days, when Radio 3 would have disdained this Britain's Got Opera approach, there was a joke that the network had so few listeners it would be cheaper to ring them all up and play music down the phone. So it was surreal to discover that when the telephone was invented, the first thing people thought was, why not use this thing to broadcast opera? The Independent's Edward Seckerson, in The Pleasure Telephone, explained how in 1881, demonstrating the telephone at an electrical exhibition in Paris, live performances of opera were chosen because "the powerful projection of operatic singing" would disguise the shortcomings of the technology. For a while it was not unusual to find people standing in hotel lobbies and clubs with telephones pressed to their ears for the latest from the Royal Opera House.

In Radio 4's very entertaining Unsung Heroes, Sarah Lenton dwelt on the occupational hazards of the opera orchestra and described how in the 18th century the pit used to be surrounded with spikes because if audiences hated something they would simply invade the stage and throw lighted candles at the players. Angry audiences weren't the only danger. In 1891, before the introduction of orchestra nets, George Bernard Shaw wrote of watching "the face of the trombone player when he realised the knife that Carmen had just plucked from Don José's hand and sent whizzing down the stage was coming straight for his jugular".

One station that does succeed in bringing classical music to the many is Classic FM. Though often the aural equivalent of being forced face down in a bucket of cream, the station is evidently doing something right because the latest Rajar figures show more than five-a-half-million people now regularly tune in. Classic's jewel in the crown is the breakfast show – the world's biggest all-classical music breakfast show no less – presented by ex-Radio 1 DJ Simon Bates. Bates gets almost 2.8 million each week, making his audience, as Classic FM point out, rather bigger than the whole of Radio 3's audience all week. Now I know it's invidious to talk numbers in the classical music wars, so I would only say Simon Bates certainly qualifies on the blood-pressure effect. The first part of his morning show, "The School Run", is so tranquilising, it's almost sedative. Studded with request slots for Surrey schoolchildren taking grade-8 cello or going on gap years, it's cheerful, big on old favourites and presents a vision of a world untroubled by recession or emergency budgets. Sitting in the traffic while the theme from The Godfather swirls around you, it is actually possible to feel your adrenalin ebb away. Your mind drifts into vacancy. Indeed, you start to wonder how slow your pulse can safely go.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on