2007: The best is yet to come

From Darcey Bussell to Dreamgirls, Hogarth to the Kaiser Chiefs, 2007 has the makings of a vintage year. Our critics reveal what is making their mouths water in anticipation
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Rock And Pop, by Andy Gill

Last year saw the most fundamental change in pop music since the introduction of the compact disc almost three decades earlier. It will be remembered as the year that the internet seriously challenged retail outlets as the major music-delivery system, with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" scoring a No 1 on downloads alone and newcomers like Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys building substantial pre-release buzzes through MySpace.

One act we'll doubtless hear more of is the Denver combo The Fray (top right), who sold a million copies of their debut album How To Save a Life in America last year through concert sales and MySpace alone; it's due for release here in March. Other hotly tipped American bands include The Hold Steady; the enigmatic Oregonian indie-rockers The Shins, whose second album arrives shortly; and the prolific Bright Eyes, whose Cassadaga should appear in April - as does Neon Bible, Arcade Fire's follow-up to the acclaimed Funeral.

The new year's early hip-hop action, meanwhile, is concentrated on the " conscious" front, with new albums imminent from Common, Talib Kweli and Def Jux supremo El-P, the genre's most innovative producer. The early months of 2007 also bring eagerly anticipated new albums from those feisty ladies d'un certain age Rickie Lee Jones, Mavis Staples and Lucinda Williams, while Yoko Ono offers us Yes, I'm a Witch, a collection of her songs reworked from her original tapes by the likes of Cat Power, Peaches and The Flaming Lips. And in March, expect the first new Iggy & The Stooges album in more than three decades - not bad going for a front man who turns 60 the following month.

The closest British equivalent is probably Brett Anderson - well, he's an ex-junkie with flamboyant tendencies and agreeably tart opinions. His eternally awaited solo debut is out in March. The Kaiser Chiefs tackle that second album hurdle in February, and a month later Joss Stone should wrest the top R&B diva throne from Beyoncé with her third set. The most intriguing British prospect of early 2007, however, has to be the Roxy Music comeback album - their first in a quarter of a century - which even features the return of Brian Eno on a few tracks: dust off those platform-soled boots and gold lamé threads.

On the world-music front, the Malian desert-blues nomads Tinariwen should break through to a mainstream audience with Aman Iman (Water Is Life), due in February. And if Sufjan Stevens doesn't issue another instalment of his enthralling 50 States project, this listener at least will be deeply saddened. It needn't be as extensive as Illinoise - an EP about Rhode Island would suffice.

Books, by Boyd Tonkin, Literary Editor

Jim Crace has a truly uncanny gift for creating a new, intensely imagined world with every novel he writes: in The Pesthouse (Picador, out in March), the Birmingham-based visionary imagines a post-catastrophe America where survivors struggle in the ruins.

Daniel Kehlmann's debut Measuring the World (Quercus, April) pairs the scientist-explorer Humboldt with the mathematical genius Gauss to investigate, with wit and sweep, the different roads to wisdom. And to follow up her Ukrainian tractors, in Two Caravans (Fig Tree, March) Marina Lewycka picks seasonal workers on a Kentish farm as the focus for a comedy of migration and misunderstanding.

April sees the release of Ian McEwan's new novel On Chesil Beach (Jonathan Cape). In 1962, a newly married couple look forward to their first night together on the Dorset coast - but this is McEwan-land, where chaos reliably stalks comfort; the flesh creeps in anticipation.

And those of us who rave about the dash and dare of Lionel Shriver's fiction can rejoice that The Post-Birthday World (Harper Collins, May), a Sliding Doors-style joint tale of alternative loves and lives, will garner the attention she always deserves. Finally, one of the great originals of British fiction, the fearless Rupert Thomson invokes the figure of Myra Hindley in Death of a Murderer (Bloomsbury, April) as a policeman's vigil over the killer's corpse summons up the monsters that haunt both self and society.

In non-fiction, Linda Colley's innovatory account of one Jamaican-born woman's progress across the 18th-century world, The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh (HarperPress, May), yokes two ruling themes in current history - slave systems, and the roots of globalisation - to a riveting personal tale. Coral: a Pessimist in Paradise (Little, Brown, March) is a stylish genre-hopping quest from the geneticist and science writer Steve Jones exploring the history and ecology of coral in the context of what humans have done to the environment.

Literary biography has fallen from grace of late, so Hermione Lee's richly nuanced portrait of the great American novelist Edith Wharton arrives just in time to prove the merits, and restore the fortunes, of a besieged form (Chatto & Windus, February). You can read a score of books about China's coming hegemony without learning anything of the next superpower's thinkers and writers: Mark Leonard's What Does China Think? (Fourth Estate, May) makes good that gap.

Debut poetry collections rarely make a splash, but this one will: the scintillating snapshots of the British Asian story in Daljit Nagra's Look We Have Coming to Dover! (Faber, February) sparkle with verbal vigour. Or why not forget the self-help trivia and cut to the chase with The Meaning of Life (Oxford, February), a concise analysis of what it's all about from Terry Eagleton.

Classical And Opera, by Edward Seckerson

In London in July, the lavishly refurbished Royal Festival Hall finally re-opens with more legroom and (hopefully) better acoustics. Under the artistic direction of Jude Kelly, it promises to be much more than just a home for the Philharmonia and London Philharmonic. The opening festivities will revolve around a full staging of Carmen Jones. More appetising, to my mind, will be the London Philharmonic's concert performances of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd with Bryn Terfel. In March, "birthday fortnight" at the Barbican will celebrate the "special relationship" with the London Symphony Orchestra in some style. The LSO's new principal conductor, Valery Gergiev, officially takes up his appointment then.

Richard Jones tests the boundaries of comedy and tragedy with two new productions: a tantalising double-bill of Ravel's L'Heure Espagnole and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi (with Terfel) at the Royal Opera House (in March) and Verdi's Macbeth at Glyndebourne (in May). Another potential plum in the Royal Opera season will be the new production of Debussy's elusive Pelleas et Melisande conducted by Simon Rattle.

Over at English National Opera, a lot is riding on the promise of Deborah Warner's new staging of Britten's Death in Venice with Ian Bostridge (May). Then, in June, there's Kismet - Broadway's kitschy take on Arabian Nights to tunes by Borodin - with a powerhouse creative team and Michael Ball in the Alfred Drake/ Howard Keel role. The potential for disaster is almost as great as the potential for camp.

And plan a weekend in Manchester in June, when the Hallé orchestra will celebrate Elgar's 150th birthday.

Television, by Brian Viner

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single television scheduler in possession of a good chunk of primetime, must be in want of a Jane Austen adaptation. By the end of 2007, however, we might feel a little Janed out, with ITV and the BBC between them bringing us Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Mansfield Park is the one I'm looking forward to most, for as Fanny Price, Austen's genteelly impoverished heroine, it stars none other than the former Mrs Chris Evans, Billie Piper. Which is not the most obvious piece of casting, but then Piper has proved herself more than capable of successful time-travelling, so we will see. As for her successor in the Tardis, I can't wait to see how the glamorous Freema Agyeman gets on as Doctor Who's new assistant.

Other dramas to watch out for include a project still enigmatically known at the BBC as Poliakoff 2007, but what we do know is that it stars Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith, and while I don't subscribe to the widely held conviction that Stephen Poliakoff is some sort of screenwriting genius, anything with the great Gambon and the mighty Maggie has to be worth a few hours of anybody's time.

Catherine Tate, whose sketch show was one of the treats of 2006, stars in what has been billed as a "hilarious comedy drama" based on the popular novel The Bad Mother's Handbook. Another funny woman, Jennifer Saunders, has co-written, with child psychologist Dr Tania Byron, a BBC comedy series called The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle. It features Saunders as the host of "Britain's most-loved, talked-about live therapy show", and sounds as though it might owe a little to Frasier. But then, don't we all?

Visual Arts, by Tom Lubbock

Hogarth is the start-of-the-year show at Tate Britain (7 February to 29 April). The father of British art packs his prints and paintings full; they have panoramic social observation, daft and savage jokes, surreal imagery, moral sentiment and highbrow visual symbolism.

After that, 2007 will be mainly a year for senior contemporaries. Five major retrospectives of the living punctuate the calendar. Gilbert and George finally get a big career show on home ground, at Tate Modern (15 February to 7 May). Their pictures - luminously coloured panels of photo-collage - always star themselves, as a pair of quasi-extraterrestrials visiting the modern human world.

Soon afterwards, Antony Gormley materialises at the Hayward Gallery (20 May to 20 August). His sculpture, often starring his own body, has lately been showing grandly messianic tendencies, but his early pieces, culminating in the mass assembly Fields, achieve truly startling variations on the human presence.

In summer, Richard Long arrives at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (30 June to 15 October). His work is an extended mediation between the indoor space of the gallery and the great outdoors. His carefully planned and sturdily paced excursions leave traces in the landscape, while bringing souvenirs (stone circles, mud drawings) back. In the autumn, the veteran German Expressionist painter Georg Baselitz is at the Royal Academy (22 September to- 9 December); he's famous for his upside-down imagery, and strangely delicate through his wildness. The French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois, mistress of every sculptural medium, gets a long-awaited retro at Tate Modern (11 October to 27 January).

But neither Old Masters nor old moderns get much of a showing, so make a trip to Paris later in the year to see the great 19th-century realist Courbet at the Grand Palais (10 October to 28 January). And don't forget the Venice Biennale (10 June to 21 November); Independent readers will want to know that this year their own Tracey Emin is representing Britain.

Film, by Roger Clarke

Judi Dench has never done quite enough evil in my view. In one of her most thrilling performances yet, she elevates Notes on a Scandal from being a pedestrian and bootstrapped British psychodrama into something very special indeed. The merciless way her hungry bluestocking casts her net around Cate Blanchett's footling and vain art teacher is a masterclass of psychological acting as good as anything Dame Judi has done in her entire career. Other enticing British film projects are Shane Meadows' This is England, and The Restraint of Beasts, the new Pawel Pawlikowski film, currently shooting.

Bill Condon's Dreamgirls with Jamie Foxx and Beyoncé Knowles, loosely based on the career of Diana Ross and the Supremes, has generated Oscar buzz and been praised to the skies by industry magazine Variety. I'm no fan of musicals but this sounds way above the genre's usual standards. Is it too much to hope for that Nicolas Cage's comic-book film Ghost Rider will really burn rubber, or that 28 Weeks Later will match the gloomy retro pleasures of 28 Days Later ?

I hope against hope that The Science of Sleep will prove a winner from Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and that Christopher Guest's For Your Consideration will be at all funny. I've already seen David Lynch's Inland Empire, which screened at Venice in 2006; it's one of his most intractable and brilliant works.

I love Matt Damon's boysy, bouncing-off-the-walls Bourne Identity movies, so just about the only franchise I'm looking forward to is The Bourne Ultimatum, scheduled for August. A Simpsons feature film from Matt Groening? Doh - who could resist it? And Universal's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry promises a few crumbs of comedy potential with its portrait of two straight firefighters getting married for the work benefits.

Chinese cinema continues to be the one to watch. In The Painted Veil with Naomi Watts, Hollywood is even trying to copy it. Zhang Yimou's March release Curse of the Golden Flower is very high on my must-see list, as is Hou Hsiao-hsien's first French film, Ballon Rouge, with Juliette Binoche. Finally, Ang Lee's Se Jie (Lust), set in Shanghai during the Second World War, sounds magnificent.

Comedy, by Julian Hall

The new year heralds the start of a number of stand-up tours from some old favourites. I am particularly looking forward to seeing An Audience with Arthur Smith, where the circuit veteran and "grumpy old man" will talk about his life on and off stage.

I'd also recommend Sean Hughes, who takes to the road after an eight-year break from live work. Hughes warmed up with a couple of dates at the Soho Theatre last year and was looking ready to hit top form. It is to be hoped that the same goes for Ricky Gervais, who officially starts his Fame tour on Monday after a string of work-in-progress gigs at London venues.

Among comedians touring off the back of Edinburgh Fringe success is Phil Nichol, winner of the 2006 Eddie comedy award. The intimate venues the Canadian is playing should help to sustain the impact of his high-energy style. Of other Fringe favourites, I'll particularly enjoy the chance to see again the likeable Eddie nominee Russell Howard, recently seen alongside Liza Tarbuck on ITV2's coverage of the British Comedy Awards (where most of the live awards were ushered), and the ubiquitous Josie Long. Although she's been winning talent awards for the past eight years, the cherubic Long has come to the fore since winning the newcomer Eddie in 2006. She is on the writing team of E4's eagerly anticipated teen drama Skins and starring in ITV2's Comedy Cuts.

Meanwhile, the controversial black comedian Reginald D Hunter had both an excellent Edinburgh and a recent celebrated three-week London run. He will be hoping his form continues as he wends his way around the UK between February and June. Whether the title of his show, Pride, Prejudice and Niggas, will cause as much consternation as it did in London remains to be seen. Either way, Hunter will remain uncompromising as well as entertaining.

Dance, by Zoe Anderson

This should be a busy dance year, with new productions from British companies, plus plenty of glamorous visitors.

American Ballet Theatre, the first of the big visiting companies, makes its first UK visit in more than 15 years (Sadler's Wells, 14 to 18 February). I've heard very good reports of ABT dancers, and the repertory is enticing. This short season packs in ballets by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp and Mark Morris, plus classical party pieces.

The summer brings more American stars. I'm keen to see the British debut of celebrated tap dancer Savion Glover (Sadler's Wells, 13 to 16 June), while the much-loved Mark Morris Dance Group returns with Mozart Dances (Barbican, 4-7 July). This will be a high-flying collaboration with the painter Howard Hodgkin and, among the musicians, Jane Glover and Emanuel Ax.

The Bolshoi Ballet, which had a hit season here in 2006, returns for three weeks at the London Coliseum (31 July to 18 August). The repertory includes a new production of Le Corsaire, a new work by Christopher Wheeldon, Massine's rare ballet Les Présages and The Bright Stream, a delightful romp by company director Alexei Ratmansky. Among the dancers, look out for the young Natalia Osipova (right).

The Royal Ballet starts the New Year with a new staging of dances from Bournonville's Napoli - some of the happiest choreography in ballet (Royal Opera House, 16 to 20 January). Later on, in spring, there's a new work by Alastair Marriott, which shares a bill with the company's first-ever performances of Balanchine's great Theme and Variations (5 to 24 March). The Royal Ballet company has excitingly good dancers: I'm eager to see established names Marianela Nunez and Sarah Lamb, and rising stars such as Steven McRae. In what could be her last season, Darcey Bussell has been dancing superbly - she may retire after her performances in MacMillan's Song of the Earth, which shares a bill with Ninette de Valois's Checkmate and Ashton's glorious Symphonic Variations (2 to 8 June).

I wish I had more choices outside London. In the regions, dance-goers will see a lot of story ballets with safely familiar names, though modern companies such as Rambert and Henri Oguike (both touring) promise some welcome variety.

Theatre, by Paul Taylor

What I am most looking forward to seeing in 2007 is how Dominic Cooke, the new artistic director, sets about shaking up the Royal Court and restoring the sense of edge and experiment that has been largely missing at our national theatre of new writing in the past few years. He has yet to announce his first season (which begins at the end of April) but I have high hopes of Cooke who, equally talented at nurturing emergent writers and at casting fresh light on the established (Arthur Miller, Shakespeare) seems ideally placed to put into practice the Royal Court's celebrated principle of presenting new works as if they were classics and classics as if they were new works.

Cooke's recent paired promenade productions of The Winter's Tale and Pericles were the revelatory highlight of the RSC Complete Works Season, in Stratford, so far. In March, the season climaxes with Ian McKellen playing King Lear for Trevor Nunn. Great actor, great director - and I anticipate with pleasure that they will disprove my theory that actors with university-trained intellects are at a disadvantage when playing this hero who rarely involves his brain in his gut reactions. One of the best Shakespearean outfits in the country is the Bristol-based Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, and I am delighted that it has survived a funding crisis to present what I expect will be typically lucid, intimate and thematically linked productions of Othello and Much Ado About Nothing this spring.

I positively salivate at the prospect of several upcoming shows - Nick Hytner's National Theatre production of Etherege's great Restoration comedy The Man of Mode, starring Tom Hardy, an actor who oozes sex and cockiness; Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman at the Donmar, a production that reunites the team (director Michael Grandage and playwright/adaptor David Eldridge) behind the excellent revival of The Wild Duck; and the Young Vic's theatrical reworking by Rufus Norris and Tanya Ronder of Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre's controversial, blackly funny, Booker Prize-winning novel about the aftermath of a Columbine-style killing. In Market Boy and Cabaret, Norris has shown great skill in juggling subjective and objective viewpoints. Transferring this tricky first-person text to the stage will present him with an exhilarating challenge.

Radio, by Robert Hanks

Like some exotic lichen that thrives only in the purest air, Radio 3 functions as an indicator species, signalling changes in the BBC ecosystem. So, February's revamp of its schedules has an importance out of all proportion to its audience. The big shift is in the evenings, when the nightly 7.30pm live orchestral concert gives way to a 7pm "as live" concert, recorded the previous day or week. That makes room for a peak-time repeat of the perennially informative and engaging Composer of the Week. And, more significantly, the radio talk, the single voice trying to engage your attention on a subject you never thought could interest you, makes a comeback in a nightly series of 15-minute talks, The Essay, beginning with a week of talks about the poet W H Auden (whose centenary is, for me, the anniversary of the year).

The big, splashy event in classical music is the Tchaikovsky Experience, a successor to Radio 3's complete Beethoven and Bach events - enticingly, Tchaikovsky is being spiked with the complete Stravinsky. Outside the classical field, there are plenty of festivals around, including blanket coverage of Glastonbury's return. A discovery for me last year, courtesy of Radio 2, was the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, which celebrates the folkie/indie end of rock; it's back in March, spread across Radio 2 and, for the digitally inclined, 6 Music.

I'm also looking forward to the continuation of two fine things that came in at the end of last year: Russell Brand's (left) startlingly warm and erudite Saturday-night show on Radio 2; and Bob Dylan's theatrical, eclectic Theme Time Radio Hour, on Friday nights, 6 Music.

The big talk event of the year is, as always, the Reith Lectures, on Radio 4 in April and May, though they almost always disappoint. After Daniel Barenboim's pleasant mush last year, the development economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs promises something chewier: he has chosen the mildly scary title, "Bursting at the Seams".

Finally, the single interview I'm most looking forward to is on Night Waves on Radio 3, on Friday 19 January: Philip Dodd talks to Jarvis Cocker - two bewitchingly unorthodox intelligences with bewitchingly unorthodox vowels.

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