Arts and Entertainment Mel Smith (right) and Griff Rhys Jones as Jones says his comedy partnership with the late Smith was

Griff Rhys Jones says his comedy partnership with the late Mel Smith was "not exactly a marriage made in heaven".

Music: I'd get a divorce if I was Figaro

OPERA PLANNING is a long-term business: diaries get filled three years ahead and if you want Pavarotti this side of Armageddon, forget it. So when the handout for a new production merely weeks off reads "director: TBA", something is wrong. And "wrong" is probably an understatement for the Royal Opera's new Nozze di Figaro, which opened this week but was still TBA-ing its director (and for that matter its conductor) in November.

Tasty enough to whet your appetite

Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street, is back in business and sharpening his razor for action. Edward Seckerson salutes a new touring production of Stephen Sondheim's `musical thriller' that really cuts to the heart of the matter.

Classical Music: The Demon Barber: a suitable case for Occam's razor

Opera or musical? That is the question. But does it really matter?

Review: Surprise, surprise by Sondheim

Saturday Night

The Critics: Music: A top Poppea and a fun Saturday Night

Imagine Romeo and Juliet with the lovers played by Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun, tack on a happy ending, and you have a fair approximation of what happens in L'Incoronazione di Poppea - that dumbfounding product of the warped Renaissance mind, in which Monteverdi celebrates the triumph of eros over virtue. Like most scores of its age and fragmentary condition, it raises questions of text. But more than most, it raises a question of tone. At face value, Poppea is wilfully amoral, with comic touches. But to what extent should we read irony into its motives? Is it semi-serious libertarianism? Or a vaudeville to please the masses at a time when opera hadn't long been public property?

Coward wrote a show for her, she's played Sondheim and Albee and Tennessee Williams. Woody Allen gave her a cameo in his latest film ... tomorrow she sings in London

Elaine Stritch, the grand old dame of Broadway, asks David Benedict: who are you calling elderly?

Review: Whose woods these are I think I know...

Theatre: Into the Woods Haymarket Theatre, Leicester

Music Review: The quite appallingly dismal Widow

Wilderness experiences are meant to be chastening, and the Royal Opera's annees de pelerinage are proving nothing less. News broke this week that after only a month or so of busking from theatre to theatre, the company has hit financial crisis. And its brave attempt to make its homelessness a time for repertoire experiments has got off to a crazily uneven start, following a sublime Turn of the Screw with a Merry Widow so inadequate, you can only wonder how a major state-supported company has the gall to show it to the public.

Theatre review: And the latest of these is Love

There is only one place where the mythical figure of Charon might steer his boat along the same stretch of water as a boat with three chaps and a dog in it. Virgil meets Jerome K Jerome: it could only happen in a play by Tom Stoppard.

The Critics: Black and white and noir all over

Early on in Sam Mendes's new superb production of Othello, the Duke and senators meet to discuss reports that the Turkish fleet is on the move. A few desks and swivel chairs are brought in to make an operations room. Here, officials in pinstripe suits cradle brandy glasses, puff on cigars and pore over maps. The late-night atmosphere is one of disciplined urgency.

CURTAIN CALLS: Reviews

Blue Heart

A funny thing happened on the way...

MUSICAL Side by Side by Sondheim Greenwich Theatre

A shot in the dark

MUSICAL Assassins New End Theatre, London
Career Services

Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
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A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
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Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
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If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
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Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
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Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
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New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
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Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
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It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
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Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried