The cup result that made Des sick as a Pavarotti

Arts notebook

David Lister
Friday 02 May 1997 23:02

Pavarotti is coming to town next week for a recital at Covent Garden. And I understand he has specifically requested the attendance of Desmond Lynam, BBC's Match of the Day presenter and apparently the thinking middle-aged woman's crumpet. This demanded further investigation, the Pavarotti summons that is, not matronly taste in sports presenters.

I met Des before the England vs Georgia World Cup qualifying game, and now understand why Pavarotti owes him a lot - a small fortune arguably. Des, who has more than a passing interest in classical music, revealed that it was he who suggested to the BBC in 1990 that for their World Cup theme they use an aria he rather liked, "Nessun Dorma", by a tenor he rather liked, Pavarotti. "But we've never had a vocal as a World Cup theme before," the corporation retorted. "Then it's about time we did," huffed Des. He prevailed. Pavarotti won an infinitely wider fan base; "Nessun Dorma" became the climax of The Three Tenors' concerts; Decca sold an awful lot of records.

I asked Des if he negotiated a commission. He stroked his moustache wanly and sighed: "No. I got nothing at all. Actually, that's not quite true. Decca sent me a tape. I put it in my machine in the car. And it broke."

PANTOMIME teaches children and often their parents to love theatre. Oh yes it does. Oh no it doesn't. The Theatre Royal, Norwich, instead of relying on anecdote, has actually analysed its audience crossover for the past five years. The results reported in the latest issue of Theatre Management Association's own journal, Prompt, show that the panto audience is actually quite fickle. Of last year's audience for Jack and the Beanstalk 71 per cent had indeed been to the theatre on another occasion - to see Peter Pan, the previous year's panto. But no non-pantomime show at the Theatre Royal attracted even a third of the pantomime audience.

LAST Monday's over-long Bafta Awards should be shorter next year, when the film and television awards are given on different evenings. The separation is not before time. The English Patient really has very little in common with Men Behaving Badly. Meanwhile, Mike Leigh's disillusionment with the Academy, recounted in this paper this week, has caused a few murmurings, I hear. Leigh was quite right when he noted that the Bafta membership had never until this year nominated any of his full-length films or TV pieces. It is a strange omission, which has led to the director of Secrets and Lies leaving Bafta. But he should not allow himself to forget that the Bafta hierarchy did in 1995 give him the much prized Michael Balcon special award. They at least acted with logic even if the membership at large acted in rather more mysterious ways.

SIR Cameron Mackintosh is a great believer that musicals evolve in their early stages. Generally, though, the evolution is complete within the first decade. Except for Les Miserables, which after 12 years will close for 10 days in September to incorporate changes to the staging, lyrics and music, Sir Cameron has decided. Seen by 40 million people worldwide and with 29 cast recordings out there, it seems a little late in the day to go tampering with the show's appearance, let alone its words and music.

Not so, says Nick Allott, executive producer for the show. In fact, the creatives will be moving in not just to bolster the words and music but to bolster the stage, which takes a battering every night when the barricades are stormed. In addition, the whole creative team has got together to review the "lighting, colour and texture" of the production.

And the new lyrics? Actually, they're old lyrics. Material excised from the original Barbican production because the show was too long; but suddenly after 12 years the show's running shorter and the material can be restored. Clearly, casts these days sing faster, a form of musical evolution even Sir Cameron cannot have anticipated.

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