Arts and 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.

Battle royal rages in Wales' mini-kingdom

IT MAY be the smallest kingdom in the world, with a modest five subjects, but a war of succession has sprung up on the Welsh island of Bardsey, off Lleyn peninsula. Last month the Bardsey Island Trust said that, 70 years after the last monarch died, it would crown an opera singer as king of the two-by-one-mile island.

Battle of kings for island's crown

IT MAY be the smallest kingdom in the world with a modest five subjects to govern but a war of succession has sprung up on the tiny Welsh island of Bardsey, off the Lleyn Peninsula.


The Edinburgh Festival is finally under way. There's a month of comedy, dance, film, music and theatre in store and several venues are already boasting record sales. Below is a guide to what you should be booking now to make sure you see this year's most exciting performances.

First British king for 63 years

HIS KINGDOM may be only two miles long, and he may only have five subjects, but when you're royalty, size doesn't matter. Bryn Terfel, a Welsh opera star, is to be crowned king of Bardsey, a tiny island off the Lleyn peninsula in north Wales next week.

Classical: An embarrassment of operatic riches

With its focus on Verdi and Schiller, the Edinburgh Festival has at last proved it is a worthy home to lyric theatre.

An assembly for Wales? It's the 'Whys' that have it on Why

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PROMS: Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique / Gardiner; Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Saraste Royal Albert Hall, London / Radio 3

As expected, John Eliot Gardiner's Beethoven Ninth hit the ground running. The temperature in the hall last Sunday night matched the atmosphere, almost from bar one. What the violins and violas of the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique thought about standing for the entire performance one can only guess, but it ensured electric playing. Articulation was breathtaking in its clarity; from the stalls, not even the RAH acoustic could blur the edges. The first movement hurtled to its overwhelming, tragic conclusion like a meteorite. Then came the Scherzo: an intoxicating whirlwind of a dance, driven forward by John Chimes's super-rhythmic timpani-playing. The Adagio - almost as fast as Beethoven's alarmingly lively metronome mark - was even more revelatory. Slow movements have often been the weak spots in period-instrument Beethoven; but here the music danced - at one point unmistakably waltzed - with surprising lightness and grace. And there were colours, details, effects of light and shade that have somehow got lost before.

Opera and recitals top 5

1 Sole & Amore: Puccini Arias KIRI TE KANAWA

OPERA: Salome Royal Opera House, London

The head looks like it's still attached to the body, the bloody shroud hanging from it like Salome's eighth veil. The "child of admonition" has the man of God in her embrace at last, and for one awful moment, it's as if they are dancing. A waltz. Salome's waltz. The last waltz. And she's saved it just for him.

The best Salome you ever heard


Freak out!

Rheinallt H Rowlands: funny name, no joke.

Classical RPO Birthday Gala Royal Albert Hall, London

An orchestra that's been around for two score years and ten has reason enough to celebrate its 50th birthday, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra did it in style at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday. The concert was billed as a gala, a word that often denotes an emphasis on social drinking for patrons rather than musical quality. But with William Bennett and Marisa Robles performing Mozart's Concerto for flute and harp, and Ida Haendel playing Ravel's Tzigane, music was the order of the evening for the RPO, with the proceeds going to good causes.

Edinburgh Mendelssohn: Elijah Usher Hall

"The Tory Party at prayer" is just one waggish description aimed at Elijah in the 150 years since its Birmingham Festival premiere in 1846. The anniversary-obsessed musical world has been busy finding out whether Mendelssohn's oratorio really is as irretrievably stuck in its early-Victorian timewarp as legend would have it. Besides performances at the Three Choirs Festival and the Proms, the Edinburgh Festival's closing concert on Saturday offered the additional interest of a period-instrument performance by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. This represented rarity value of a high order: how often do we get a chance to hear the Tory Party at prayer and accompanied by an ophicleide?
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