i Father Christmas, annual giftgiver

Not a regular in the public eye this one.

Hugues Cuénod: Immensely versatile Swiss tenor who sang at Glyndebourne for over 30 years

Few singers can boast of a career lasting more than 65 years; Hugues Cuénod was one who could, but the Swiss tenor was in every way an extraordinary artist. Fluent in six languages, he had an unusually wide range of sympathies spanning four centuries, from Dowland, Monteverdi and Bach, to Berg, Honegger and Stravinsky, encompassing every type of vocal music from café chantant to oratorio. Equally at home putting across popular songs with Jane Laquien, as the duo "Bob et Bobette", or singing Satie's Socrate in the salon of the Princesse de Polignac, he had not one but several careers, as concert singer, recitalist, musical-comedy artiste, teacher and as a superb operatic character tenor. These careers overlapped each other, but after the Second World War the character tenor became the most important and successful.

The Nutcracker, Coliseum, London<br/>Faeries, Linbury Studio, London

Innocent days of simple gifts, menacing nights of malice

Black Swan: Caught in the dance

Black Swan shows ballerinas as obsessive, mysterious creatures. We do the artform a disservice with this much-peddled myth, says ex-dancer Alice-Azania Jarvis

The Nutcracker, Coliseum, London

Though English National Ballet's new Nutcracker is a long-awaited production, it seems to have been rushed on to the stage. It has handsome designs, Tchaikovsky's score and some strong dancing, but suffered a case of first-night nerves. Some dances were under-rehearsed; at least one special effect went awry. The production and company need to take a deep breath and calm down.

Susie Mesure: Nifty footwork takes our dancers to new heights

If it's Christmas, it must be The Nutcracker: Clara and her wooden soldier doll are our constant companions during a season otherwise observed in ever different ways. At English National Ballet, which has danced the work every December for the past 59 years, the latest version of the Hoffmann classic opens on Friday for 32 performances at the Coliseum in London, the company's Christmas home.

Album: Tchaikovsky, Romeo and Juliet/Symphony 6 (Orfeo)

Andris Nelsons' remarkable ear for orchestral colour is put to the test in this bold pairing of Tchaikovsky's Sixth with Romeo and Juliet. The fantasy overture is the more natural fit for the 32-year-old conductor.

Volodos/Chailly/Leipzig Gewandhaus, Barbican

As the concerto that everyone knows – put to a myriad showbiz uses, including the Olympic torch relay in Moscow, and the credit sequence for ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’ – Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1 might be thought to have been worked to death, but its allure stays evergreen.

How We Met: Lez Brotherston &amp; Matthew Bourne

'We've called each other Bette and Joan. He thinks Bette's common and I think Joan's a slut'

Modern Poetry in Translation (Series 3 No 13): Polyphony, ed David and Helen Constantine

Some excellent short essays in this volume help to explain the nature of translation and its problems and challenges, almost as well as do the translated poems, laid side by side with their originals. My favourite was Sasha Dugdale's account of translating William Blake into Russian with a group of students in a town just outside Moscow. How to get across the sense of a self-taught poet at odds with tradition? Dugdale struggles with their lack of reverence for the originals, and one woman's rewriting of "The Sick Rose" almost breaks Dugdale's heart.

In the red: A gift to myself is wrapped with guilt

For once, the hate mail was not forthcoming. Given that any mention of non-essential spending in this column tends to be greeted with a flurry of "well aren't you jammy!" emails, I had thought that talk of a not-at-all-necessary, entirely indulgent, £65 ballet ticket would guarantee at least one negative response. Apparently not. Not so much as a peep.

Album: Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker &ndash; Berliner / Rattle (EMI)

Simon Rattle is a late-adopter when it comes to Tchaikovsky's ballets, and he tackles The Nutcracker as though persuading himself of its worth.

Bourne launches search for the real Billy Elliots

Choreographer sets up talent competition to inspire youngsters

Philharmonia Orchestra/ Sokhiev, Royal Festival Hall

The trick with Debussy’s Prélude à l’aprés midi d’un faune is to make the whole piece sound as free as the celebrated flute solo which awakens it.

DVD: The Concert (15)

After being sacked for conducting Jewish musicians in defiance of the Communist regime, Andrei Filipov winds up, 30 years later, working as a lowly cleaner for the Bolshoi Orchestra.

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