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There is an inbuilt problem with reviewing, is there not?  The reviewer, sated with wine, food, words or music can end up approaching in a spirit of intolerance and even hostility what customers or audience approach in a spirit of generosity.

I wondered about this after reading a couple of reviews of the The Winter’s Tale at ENO. This magnificent new opera by Ryan Wigglesworth includes a ravishing new score, the best set design and direction I have seen in years, and a cast of the most committed and talented singers any opera house could acquire. After an opening night in which most of the audience’s hands were sore with clapping, I read some reviews over the ensuing days (including summaries by reviewers who were not there) claiming that the whole thing had been received coolly by the audience. It seems to me that, especially during times such as these, anybody who is creating rather than just Twittering is to be savoured and cherished, their work approached in a spirit of encouragement and hope. And yet much of the opera-reviewing class appears to approach it in a spirit of despoliation and grudge.


To St Mary The Boltons for the memorial service for my agent, Gillon Aitken. Two of his authors, Sebastian Faulks and Helen Fielding, gave funny and moving addresses, remembering a man who — carefully rather than coldly — always held back his inner life with a restraint that is now unusual. While young, Gillon had studied Russian and translated Pushkin, leading to rumours which he did little to dispel.  So what a fitting final nod it seemed that one of the pieces sung at his memorial should have been Geoffrey Burgon’s setting of the Nunc Dimittis, memorably used for the closing credits of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
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