Benjamin Britten

Classical podcast: Britten Spring Symphony

It may be tempting providence to programme Benjamin Britten's Spring Symphony in Manchester at precisely the time that the season of renewal should well and truly have sprung

These New Puritans - The new pastoralists

These New Puritans meld inspirations as diverse as the Essex countryside, Benjamin Britten, and Japanese drums to create a unique music that sounds as though it's from a weird, private cult. Nick Hasted meets the foursome

A very English playwright: The return of Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett stages his first play for years this month, at the National Theatre. Paul Taylor, who has met him many times, looks at how the butcher's son from Leeds became Britain's best loved playwright, and tries to unravel his complex personality

Britten, the boy wonder

Music the composer wrote as a child can now be heard for the first time. It shows a precocious genius, says Lynne Walker

The Beggar's Opera, Royal Opera House, London

You could experience a momentary double-take walking into the Royal Opera's Linbury Studio Theatre – thinking you've taken a wrong turn into the main house, as a cross-section of the ornate balconies and familiar red curtains of the latter confronts you. John Gay's original The Beggar's Opera was so successful that it laid the foundations for the theatre that is now the Royal Opera House.