All the world's a wobbly set

Actors get stroppy with them. Singers fall off their sets. Audiences are confused by them. And directors steal their thunder. Who'd be a stage designer? John Gunter, for one. By Michael Church

RADIO: A finger pointing the way towards hope

A fog descends on my brain when words like 'molecule' and 'hydrocarbon' emerge from the radio

SIX GOOD POP CDS

Oasis: (What's the Story?) Morning Glory (Creation) Frightful oiks often make good rock records. QED.

Classical Music: Replay

Strauss: Don Quixote Lalo: Cello Concerto Jacqueline du Pre (cello), New Philharmonia / Boult; Cleveland Orchestra / Barenboim

True period performance

Opera: ARIANNA; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London

All you need to know about the books you meant to read; This week: Don Quixote by Cervantes (1605 & 1615)

Plot: Initially the novel is a parody of chivalric romances and reflects their episodic structure. The story is relayed by two narrators whose versions of events sometimes conflict.

Dance: ROYAL SWEDISH BALLET London Coliseum

For its London debut, the Royal Swedish Ballet has chosen the light, bright fare that is Rudolf Nureyev's production of Don Quixote. With its unwieldy narrative bolstered by bravura divertissements and the cheap thrill of Minkus's hummable tunes, Don Quixote is the kind of ballet that exists mainly as a showcase for an attractive pair of lovers - in this case, Kitri and Basilio. The Don's dual cruel affliction of pride and maladroitness is evident in every wooden but genuine gesture of chivalry, but it is the hazardous passage of Kitri and Basilio's courtship that forms the ballet's central theme and allows it to culminate in a wedding celebration which remains in full, glorious swing as the curtain descends.

DANCE

Choice

Desperate laughter

The hostage crisis was coming to a head, things were looking grim, and what does Malcolm Bradbury do? He heads for the hills, and an international `conference' on comedy. Well, you've got to laugh

Touching on a sensitive subject : Washington Days

Martin Fierro, the fictional gaucho who is to Argentina what Don Quixote is to Spain, had wise counsel for someone in my predicament. "When you wander in foreign lands you must be serene and prudent."

CLASSICAL MUSIC / Lost Russians sing Wexford

Wexford is a bleak Irish town with a basic theatre, persistent rain and an annual opera festival. If this served up Traviatas and Butterflys, you wouldn't make the journey. But Wexford digs into the bottom drawer of the opera cabinet and pulls out things you'd never hear elsewhere - such as Anton Rubinstein's The Demon, which opened this year's festival on Thursday.

OPERA / A dastardly Don: Don Quixote, ENO

ENO is to be congratulated on bringing Massenet's opera back to London for the first professional staging since 1912. The work itself has great charms and deserves to be more widely known.

Centrefold: The trouser foshow: Don Quixote given the neo-flamenco touch at the ENO

What exactly does a costume designer do? With fashion designers like Jasper Conran turning their hands to theatre, the issue has become very confused. Deirdre Clancy is very clear that it's not just a question of running up glamorous frocks. 'A fashion designer comes up with a series of garments for a person to choose. A costume designer has to create and express characters through clothes. You're working on a text. It's an intellectual and interpretive process as well as a purely technical and artistic one.'

GOING OUT / Opera: Massenet performance of frills and windmills

SOME works are ignored with good reason, but the neglect of Massenet's opera Don Quixote is hard to justify. It was the hottest ticket in Paris when it premiered in 1910, and in London two years later. Its second London production opens this week, after a gap of 82 years, at ENO.

BOOKS / Classic Thoughts: The fair maiden of Penge: Hugo Barnacle on Thomas Malory's down-to-earth Arthurian tales

CONTINENTALS read Don Quixote, not incorrectly, as a satire on the tales of Arthurian chivalry that held medieval Europe in thrall. The British merely read it as a comic study of a certain romantically deluded character type. This is not so much because we take the Arthurian legends seriously, but more because our own best-known versions of them, the ones written by Sir Thomas Malory while he was imprisoned for fighting on the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses, are down-to-earth in a way the Continental ones are not. They do little to deserve or reward satirical attention.
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