Arts & Entertainment

Very occasionally you are lucky enough to encounter a performance in which a sort of mystical transformation takes place: when the music and the way it is performed simply embody the emotion that underlies it.

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, Royal Opera House, London

Now that Keith Warner’s "Ring" has been re-launched in its entirety, we can judge it afresh. Like the first two "days" (reviewed last week) the second two contain much to enjoy, if also some disappointments, plus some technical hitches which should have been sorted out in dress rehearsal - notably the stuffed stag with its antlers caught on the overhanging 'sky', thus sabotaging Siegfried’s loveliest aria.

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, Royal Opera House, London

Eight years after its unveiling, Keith Warner’s ‘Ring’ is back, and though his ‘Rheingold’ has been streamlined, the balance between symbolism and naturalism remains awkward (we’re not meant to laugh when Alberich turns into a monster, but we do).

Puccini Tosca, Royal Opera House

Bring together three of the most intuitive talents (and biggest stars) on the planet, meld them under the baton of Antonio Pappano whose command of every caress, swoon, and dramatic impulse of Puccini’s Tosca is not learned but instinctively felt and you have a recipe for the kind of evening that gives the Royal Opera its truly international status.

Brian Davies: Pianist described as 'the Rachmaninov of the Rhondda'

The accompanist and arranger Bryan Davies was one of the most brilliant musicians to come out of south Wales. A concert pianist in his own right – the soprano Rebecca Evans dubbed him "the Rachmaninov of the Rhondda" – he was also an exceptional technical exponent of the art of accompanying. It was not only the most celebrated vocalists of the opera house and concert hall who could testify to his consummate musical skills, he was also a great enabler: he taught young musicians how they might become better than they had dreamt of being.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Royal Opera House

Those umbilically-joined directors Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier don’t always hit the spot – their ‘Hansel und Gretel’ is a queasy concoction – but when they do, the results are glorious, and never more so than with their take on Rossini’s ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’, now back for its second revival.

Album: Danielle De Niese, Diva (Decca)

The popular young soprano's third album is a bit of a cheat, being largely comprised of arias plucked from her two previous albums dedicated to Handel and Mozart, including the splendid duet from Don Giovanni with Bryn Terfel, "Là Ci Darem La Mano".

The Proms Opening Weekend, Royal Albert Hall, London

Big is beautiful as the Proms set sail on a wave of grandeur from Mahler, Wagner and Verdi

First Night: First Night of the Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London

Season opens with a bang big enough to blow the roof off

Album: Andrea Bocelli, Bizet's Carmen (Decca)

The world's most popular tenor, in the world's most popular opera? Do you suppose this will sell?

Proms perfection: What to see at the biggest music festival on earth

The greatest classical music festival in the world is back – an unparalleled, gargantuan feast of bravura performance. Nicola Christie highlights this year's most enticing prospects and asks insiders for their pick of the Proms

The Love for Three Oranges, Grange Park, Hampshire<br/>Capriccio, Grange Park, Hampshire<br/>Susan Bullock, St Bartholomew&rsquo;s Church, Sydenham

Two operatic oddities, and a request to sponsor body parts, lift the spirits at Grange Park

Ruck and Maul: Nine missing but Saracens can still scent the semi-finals

While Saracens director Francois Pienaar chuckles at Matt Damon's prosthetically enhanced (the nose, that is) portrayal of him in 'Invictus', the South African-backed club are missing nine England players for their LV Cup tie against Newport-Gwent Dragons this afternoon. This is the end of the pool stage, and yesterday's results leave Gloucester, Saracens and Harlequins with a chance of joining Northampton in the last four in March. Quins and Gloucester could stop the Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets going through.

Bryn Terfel: Bad Boys, Royal Festival Hall, London

Bryn Terfel arrived in the capital armed with countless sneers and as many ways to make mischief. His latest album, Bad Boys – a comprehensive gallery of operatic rogues and villains – was now a tour, and there was a big, glossy, souvenir programme to prove it.

Bryn Terfel: 'Bad Boys', Royal Festival Hall

Bryn Terfel arrived in the capital armed with countless sneers and as many ways to make mischief. His latest album Bad Boys – a comprehensive gallery of operatic rogues and villains – was now a tour, and there was a big, glossy, souvenir programme to prove it. But at least this latest participant in the South Bank's "International Voices" series offered value for money – the big Welshman doesn’t short-change us, not even when he's in the guise of that prize quack Dr Dulcamara whose lotions and potions are cheap for a reason.

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