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.

music Beethoven; Schoenberg Usher Hall

Sometimes you wonder if a concert has been planned with some political agenda in mind. Prefacing Beethoven's Choral Symphony with Schoenberg's A Survivor from Warsaw gives an odd flavour, a few years after the symphony was used as rallying-call of a united Germany; Schoenberg's piece, the angry protest of a Jew against Nazi brutality, seems to set a question- mark to Schiller's noisy hymn to the brotherhood of man, declaimed in the German language.

Singers who bring the House down

Two more stars have left Covent Garden in the lurch. But they have good reason, says Peter Popham

Victory for sound over vision

Welsh National Opera gives a performance of The Rake's Progress which survives the director's Big Idea.

Letter: Last note on the Proms

From Mr Dafydd Price Jones

Record reviews: single play

Walton: Belshazzar's Feast; Crown Imperial; Henry V Bryn Terfel (baritone), Bournemouth SO / Andrew Litton (piano) (Decca 448 134-2). Brahms: Liebeslieder-Walzer; Neue Liebeslieder-Walzer Barbara Bonney, Anne Sofie von Otter, Kurt Streit, Olaf Bar (EMI 5 55430-2)

Summer Festivals SALZBURG

Gerard Mortier has gone a long way towards redefining the Salzburg Festival since he took over after Herbert von Karajan's death. Above all, he has restored the place of drama, now ruled over autonomously by Peter Stein. And Stein's new production of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard is a triumph, an apparently effortless fusion of farce, beauty and tragedy.

But should it cost £1.78 a minute?

Classical Music

All hands needed on deck

OPERA Peter Grimes Royal Opera House, London

MUSIC: An Amadeus for Ludwig

A new film rewrites Beethoven's love-life but stays faithful to his music. Georg Solti is the man to thank, says Michael White

OPERA The sickly sweet smell of success

Salome Royal Opera, London

The law of diminishing returns

MUSIC LPO / Zubin Mehta RFH, London


P J Harvey: To Bring You My Love (Island, CD/LP/tape). "Forsaken Heaven/cursed God above/lain with the devil/to bring you my love." Yes, it's Polly Harvey's lurrve album, and Barry White is safe in his job. She may have ditched the bassist and drummer who originally made up her band, and reports say she is cheerier than she used to be, but To Bring You My Love does not evince a new mood. It's a threatening, nightmarish creature: imagine Siouxsie and the Bad Seeds. (Bad Seed Mick Harvey, no relation, makes a guest appearance.) No longer reliant on power-trio attack, P J uses strings, organs, maracas and marimbas to broaden her range of textures within an overall minimalist feel: from the voodoo vibe of "I Think I'm a Mother" to the western dust of "C'mon Billy". The songwriting, however, is less distinctive. You're unlikely to hum her repetitive four-note riffs. Tunes aside, the atmosphere and anguish and Harvey's tempestuous voice make the record stand out from its peers. Nicholas Barber

Middle-Aged spread

VERDI's first opera was probably Oberto, written at the age of 26. Although that is not so very young by the standards of mid-19th-century opera composers, the score is clearly an apprentice piece, trapped in conventions passed down the line from Rossini, Donizetti and Bel-lini (who all, needless to say, used them more imaginatively). For good reasons it isn't often done. So Opera North's new production in Leeds is something out of the ordinary, the more so for having the celebrated bass John Tomlinson not only singing the title role but directing the show, his first venture into production.

CLASSICAL MUSIC / Party poppers, party poopers: Last Night Of The Proms: Silly hats, teddy bears, and some fine music, too

The Last Night of the Proms - either you love it or hate it. In fact it's possible to feel both about this weirdly British institution. In a way, it is utterly, utterly ghastly. Quite apart from the political dimensions - prayers for the return of the ever-expanding Empire ('wider still and wider') - there's the sight of thousands of one's countrymen and women reduced almost to hysterics by exploding party-poppers, nose- diving paper darts and balloons making rude noises during solemn cello solos (I wonder how much the musicians really enjoy that sort of thing?). And for some of us there's the added embarrassment of knowing that for many outsiders, this is what 'The Proms' means - not a uniquely adventurous music festival, offering by far the widest range of orchestral music in the country, but people in Eton collars, straw boaters and Union Jack waistcoats waving teddy bears along to 'The Sailor's Hornpipe'. One prominent journalist has even referred to this as 'the typical Radio 3 audience' - time for an emergency meeting with the image consultants, I'd say.

Take me to your lieder: Bryn Terfel is possessed of a heavenly bass-baritone and the strength of a prop-forward. He locked heads with Edward Seckerson

Bryn Terfel was in the seventh and final week of rehearsal for his first Leporello. He was growing more like Don Giovanni each day - his twin, his alter ego, his conscience, ultimately his better judgement. At least, that was producer Patrice Chereau's current thinking. But Salzburg was getting hotter. And so were rehearsals. Terfel's wife Lesley and newborn son Tomos had arrived in town. He was restless. Impatient for an audience. 'Seven weeks is too long. I know it's good to have the extra time when you are preparing a new role - and Leporello is quite a role . . . so busy, so physical; he's rarely off the stage. But you know, I find that after four or five weeks of good, useful work, producers are inclined to start changing things. They start to think again.' Even Patrice Chereau? Particularly Patrice Chereau.
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