La Forza Del Destino

Just recovering from the wonderful matinee at Covent Garden of La Forza del Destino: a beautifully well judged production, austere sets, cinematic projections, love, passion, murder, a monastery, and death, with Jonas Kaufmann as Don Alvaro and Anna Netrebko as Donna Leonora, both magnificent. There are dud bits, but that’s the fault of the opera and they don’t detract from the central drama. We loved it.


Visitor Numbers

I am still habituated to studying the Art Newspaper’s annual publication of visitor numbers worldwide.

Some observations:-

Nearly as many people saw a sampling of Tate Britain’s collection in Shanghai as visit it in London.

The Guggenheim in Bilbao always does amazingly well in terms of its exhibitions (eg Joana Vasconcelos), better than any exhibition in London.

The British Museum has traditionally been at least a million above Tate Britain and the National Gallery. No more.

I’m pleased that the numbers at the Royal Academy were so good. A record for the Summer Exhibition and 1.6 million in toto, significantly more, I think, than ever before.

Check out @TheArtNewspaper’s Tweet:


The March (3)

I’ve been thinking about the March.

Of course, many people were middle class, but this is not unrepresentative of the population as a whole. They were young and old. They came from all over. And they stretched all the way from Parliament Square to Hyde Park Corner. The Prime Minster talks as if she has a hot line to ‘the people’. But it may just consist of pillow talk with her husband, bunkered as she so obviously is in Downing Street.

The other thing was the diversity of the speakers at the rally which might have been manufactured, as was the faintly absurd faux nationalist video at the beginning, but felt natural – cross party, cross generational, including politicians of different stripes, putting national interests first. Isn’t this preferable to the brutal and aggressive sectarianism which has been recently unleashed ?


The March (2)

I should maybe have said, which was obvious from the speeches from the podium, that there is now a substantial, if not dominant middle ground, in which Anna Soubry is able to share a podium with David Lammy and Dominic Grieve can speak after Tom Watson; but that this middle ground is weirdly absent currently from the mainstream of British politics because of the rival extremism of the two main parties, and, most especially, of their leaders. So, if I come away with any sense of optimism – and there is not much to be optimistic about – it is that this middle ground can come together and exert itself effectively through the debates in the House of Commons and the voting process in the week ahead.


The March (1)

I have just been on my first march – down St. James’s Street, down Pall Mall, we peeled off at Trafalgar Square to get a place in Parliament Square: all very peaceful and good humoured, apart from a strong sense of anger and grievance that one referendum is regarded as totally legitimate in spite of the ignorance, three years ago, of Brexit’s consequences, the lies that were told, the illegalities and the use of Russian money; but the idea of a second referendum, now that we know what the consequences of Brexit are going to be, is somehow regarded as a betrayal of democracy.

Sandi Toksvig was very impressive, as were Caroline Lucas and David Lammy. The biggest boos were reserved not so much for Theresa May as for Jeremy Corbyn, so conspicuous by his absence from the People’s March:-



I sadly didn’t have time to explore Old Lille, only to walk back to the station by way of the Grand Place, where I was impressed not so much by the decorative strapwork of the Vieille Bourse, designed and decorated by Julien DestrĂ©e in 1653, as the decorative language of a house in a street immediately to the north:-

I also liked the detail on the original shop front of A la Cloche d’Or, including the ancient advertising for Omega watches:-