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August 19 2013

Firefox bleibt der beliebteste Webbrowser

Der Verdrängungswettbewerb unter den »Benutzeroberflächen für Webanwendungen«, Browserwars oder Krieg der Webbrowser genannt, tobt von Beginn an im World Wide Web. Denn das Unternehmen, welches den am häufigsten genutzten Webbrowser anbietet, kann mit dessen Funktionen die Entwicklung der Websites steuern. In der Rückschau ist die Verbreitung der verschiedenen Browser in der Vergangenheit äußerst dynamisch gewesen – und bleibt vermutlich auch in der Zukunft in Bewegung. Im Folgenden ein paar aktuelle und »historische« Daten und Fakten zum Wettrennen der Webbrowser.

Firefox ist Webbrowser Nummer eins, Internet Explorer und Chrome fast gleichauf auf Platz zwei und drei

Aktuell steht Firefox auf Platz eins der Rangliste, mit großem Abstand folgen der Internet Explorer und Chrome. Es zeichnet sich ab, dass Google schon bald die Nummer zwei der Webbrowser stellen könnte. Nach kurzer Stagnation ist der Firefox-Anteil wieder gestiegen. Grund hierfür sind möglicherweise die Nutzer älterer Microsoft Windows Installationen (immerhin auf ca. einem Drittel aller Computer), auf denen kein neuerer Internet Explorer mehr installiert werden kann. Safari, Opera und weitere Browser spielen derzeit keine wichtige Rolle im Browser-Wettkampf.

Firefox ist der beliebteste Webbrowser im Internet

Der Blick zurück zeigt, dass in den früheren Jahren des Internet (1995/96) der Netscape Navigator, der erste kommerzielle Nachfolger des Ur-Webbrowsers NCSA Mosaic, eine monopolartige Stellung innehatte. Der Browser-Krieg begann, als Microsoft ansetzte, Netscape aus dem Markt zu verdrängen. Im Jahr 1999 überholte der Internet Explorer in Deutschland Netscape und war in den folgenden Jahren der meistgenutzte Browser. Da Microsoft nach Ansicht zahlreicher Webentwickler viele interessante Entwicklungen ignorierte und Sicherheitslöcher ungeflickt ließ, nahm das Non-Profit Mozilla-Projekt mit der Entwicklung von Firefox Fahrt auf. Ende 2004 gestartet, gelang es Firefox in der Version 3 im Jahr 2009 den Internet Explorer auf Platz zwei zu verweisen.

Im Jahr 2008 veröffentlichte Google die erste Version eines eigenen Webbrowsers: Chrome. Trotz zahlreicher Werbeaktivitäten on- wie offline stieg die Verbreitung langsamer als bei den drei Mitbewerbern zuvor.
Apples Safari hat es seit dem Start 2003 in Deutschland nie zu einem höherem Verbreitungsgrad als 6 % geschafft, was einerseits natürlich auf den relativ geringen Marktanteil der Apple Computer zurückzuführen ist. Andererseits gelang der 2008 veröffentlichten Windows-Version ein Durchbruch nicht.

Ein Drittel der Internet Explorer-Nutzer surft mit Version 8

Warum befindet sich der Internet Explorer trotz der technisch fortschrittlichsten Version 10 im konstanten Sinkflug? Weil die unterschiedlichen Windows-Betriebssysteme nicht alle den Internet Explorer 10 laufen lassen können. Viele Nutzer stehen vor der Wahl, einen alten Internet Explorer zu verwenden oder sich einen anderen Browser zu installieren.

Der Blick auf die Verteilung der unterschiedlichen Versionen zeigt: 29 % der Internet Explorer-Nutzer verwenden die Version 8 von 2009 – sogar knapp 7 % noch ältere Versionen.

Internet Explorer 9 in der Mehrheit, IE 10 nur knapp vor Version 8

Für Windows-Nutzer sieht die Verwendungmöglichkeit der Internet Explorer wie folgt aus: Windows XP-Nutzer können keine höhere Version als die 8 einsetzen. Auf Windows Vista läuft maximal der Internet-Explorer 9, auf Windows 7 laufen Version 9 und 10. Das aktuelle Windows 8 wird mit dem Internet Explorer 10 ausgeliefert.

Insgesamt liegt die Nutzung des Internet Explorer auf Windows PCs bei zwischen 28 und 29 %.

Windows XP wird mehr als dreimal öfter als Window 8 genutzt

Desktop-Computer und Laptops werden deutlich vom Betriebssystem Windows dominiert. Die Verwendung der Windows-Versionen ist jedoch bemerkenswert: so gibt es in Deutschland mehr als dreimal so viele Windows XP-Computer als welche mit Windows 8. Windows XP erschien 2001 – vor zwölf Jahren. Windows Vista von 2007 ist ebenfalls häufiger in Benutzung als das aktuelle System. Im Hinblick auf den Webbrowser ist es mehr als wahrscheinlich, dass die Anteile des Internet Explorer weiter sinken werden.

Microsoft Windows ist das dominante Betriebssystem, Windows XP dreimal häufiger installiert als Windows 8

Der Krieg der Webbrowser ist geschlagen

Stand heute: Der Krieg der Webbrowser für Desktops-PCs und Laptops scheint geschlagen zu sein. Wäre da nicht die Möglichkeit, einen Webbrowser zu einem einfachen Betriebssystem weiterzuentwicklen. Chrome OS existiert seit zwei Jahren als Betriebssytem für Notebooks, Firefox OS ist ein jüngst erschienenes Betriebssytem für Smartphones. Der Webbrowser dient jeweils als »Benutzeroberfläche für Webanwedungen«. Hier schließt sich auch wieder der Kreis und wir sind gespannt, ob diese Betriebssyteme zukünftig einen Einfluss bei Desktop und Laptop PCs haben werden.

Dass der Einfluss eines Webbrowsers auf Websites immer noch groß ist, zeigte Apples Safari für mobile Geräte. Von Beginn an wurden auf iPhone und iPad keine Flash-Anwendungen abgespielt, sehr zum Ärger der Nutzer. Da die mobile Internet-Nutzung jedoch hoch und die Bedeutung von iPhone/iPad stark zunahm, führte dies letztlich zu einer breiten Abkehr von Flash-Inhalten – zu Gunsten von offenen Standards (z. B. HTML5 und der Einbindung von Video/Audio/Schriften sowie Animationen via CSS).

Der Krieg der Webbrowser ist vorbei, der Kampf um das Dominante mobile Betriebssytem tobt – wir werden darüber berichten.

Diese Ergebnisse stammen aus einer Sonderauswertung der W3B-Studie, mit der sich Zielgruppen und Themen für individuelle Anforderungen passend analysieren lassen. Die Nutzung von Webbrowser und Betriebssystem wurden im Rahmen der W3B-Befragungen technisch ausgelesen und um die mobilen Geräte bereinigt.

January 12 2013

Pierre Mendell: Don Giovanni. Bayerische Staatsoper, 1994



Pierre Mendell (1929–2008) war ein deutscher Grafikdesigner, der rund 40 Jahre lang durch seine Plakate das Erscheinungsbild öffentlicher Kultureinrichtungen geprägt hat. 1961 gründete er zusammen mit Klaus Oberer das Studio Mendell & Oberer, seit 2000 Pierre Mendell Design Studio.

(Gefunden bei dergestaltingenieur.com)

Reposted from02mysoup-aa 02mysoup-aa

August 14 2012

Glyndebourne 2012: Le nozze di Figaro from page to stage - video

This film follows the creation of award-winning designer Christopher Oram's Moorish inspired set from the page to the Glyndebourne stage





July 21 2012

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 – review

Royal Opera House/National Gallery, London

The National Gallery and the Royal Ballet are collaborating in an uncommon and marvellous way with Metamorphosis: Titian 2012. Leading artists (Mark Wallinger, Conrad Shawcross, Chris Ofili) and more than a dozen of our finest poets (including Seamus Heaney, Christopher Reid and Simon Armitage), along with seven choreographers (Kim Brandstrup, Wayne McGregor, Christopher Wheeldon and others), not to leave out three composers (Mark-Anthony Turnage, Nico Muhly and Jonathan Dove), have been commissioned to produce Titian-inspired work and, specifically, pieces relating to paintings of Diana and Actaeon.

The National Gallery's exhibition is a stimulating homage. The tricky thing is to resist judging the differing responses as rivals – the show is not a compeTitian. And actually there should be no contest, because Titian's three great paintings hold supreme sway and define Diana. In Diana and Callisto (1556-59) she's a figure of voluptuous ruthlessness, her pointed finger like a lightning conductor. In Diana and Actaeon (1556-59) her flesh looks soft but her look is as hard as the pearls she wears. In The Death of Actaeon (1559-75) she is a murderous force of nature. The paintings have spurred on splendid poetry but are less obvious as a basis for ballet – Diana and her comely entourage could not look less like ballerinas.

Yet at the Royal Opera House, as the curtain goes up on Conrad Shawcross's predatory, grey metal sculpture of Diana – like a praying mantis dominating the stage – it seems not only bold but prudent to have travelled such a distance from Titian. I love Shawcross's crazy, imaginative presumption in Machina. He has translated Diana's mettle to metal and her imperious finger into a robotic proboscis – at the tip of which a light burns like a cigarette in the dark. His Diana is pure intent, as she revolves and evolves to become part of the dance.

Kim Brandstrup and Wayne McGregor's choreography is at once miraculously sensual and, intermittently, mechanical. Carlos Acosta is at his sensational best, conveying ecstasy and sorrow, dancing with a galvanising Edward Watson against a background of fog, and alone with the machine as it turns against him. Nico Muhly's music is a beautiful mixture of trance and foreboding.

In Trespass, the second of three dances, Mark Wallinger's mirrored core of a set makes Alastair Marriott and Christopher Wheeldon's choreography seem busier. The inventive dancing complements Mark-Anthony Turnage's agile, driven, percussive score. And there is some virtuoso human sculpture, making it appear easy to be a figurehead standing on another dancer as prow. The fabulous costumes look as if sequined stars have been stitched into flesh. Trespass is intriguing, but I failed to see the piece as voyeuristic, as apparently intended.

Might too many choreographers spoil Diana's aim? Diana and Actaeon, choreographed by Liam Scarlett, Will Tuckett and Jonathan Watkins, is the most narrative-dependent of the dances. After Actaeon sees Diana naked, in a fury she turns him into a stag and his hounds kill him. Chris Ofili sets Ovid's story in a tropical paradise with a decorative 60s feel. A false move, because it shifts visceral tragedy into fey inconsequence. Similarly, although the hounds are wittily choreographed, they have a pantomime feel. And while Jonathan Dove's incantatory music is beautifully sung, it is impossible to hear the libretto. Still, the principals are again impeccable. Federico Bonelli's dashing, purple-suited Actaeon has a matador's grace. Marianela Nuñez's terrific Diana has jittery orange feet, red hair, golden breasts and neurotic energy. She resembles a flame thrower, her body the flame. And after Actaeon's annihilation, she shows what it means to dance on someone's grave.


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June 29 2012

The designer going from Gaga to the Olympic closing ceremony

Es Devlin has designed sets for Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Take That, and has just recreated Carthage for Les Troyens at Covent Garden. Now she is preparing for the biggest show of all – the London 2012 closing ceremony

What do Harold Pinter, Lady Gaga, the Royal Opera House, Batman and the organising committee of the London Olympic games have in common? More clues? Add to that list Kanye West, Sadlers Wells, Take That and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Answer: the stage designer Es Devlin. Since emerging in the late 1990s, Devlin has put together an impressively varied body of work that ranges from rooms above pubs, opera houses and sporting stadiums. A revival of her production of Strauss's Salome at the Royal Opera House has just closed and a new production of Berlioz's Les Troyens has just opened. She designed Kanye West's recent O2 concerts and Rihanna's sets for her Brits and Grammy appearances. In August she will design the closing ceremony for the London Olympic games.

"Of course they are all different, but they are also all the same in the thought processes that go into them," she explains. "There's no other way to do it." She says while the productions have different rhythms, with the lead time for opera measured in years and for television sometimes in hours, there is extensive cross-fertilisation of ideas that emerge over time. "I was thinking about a 20m-high man made out of junk for the Take That tour in 2010, at the same time as having my first thoughts about a huge horse made of destroyed weaponry for Les Troyens. I was creating a model of Gotham City for the Batman live show at the same time as a version of Bruges that was like a map of a brain, with its system of neural canals for Korngold's opera Die Tote Stadt in Helsinki. There's also a miniature city in Les Troyens. Everything comes out differently in the end, but you can sort of trace where my head has been at any given time."

Devlin has previously dealt with the narrative material of Berlioz's monumental five-hour opera based on the Aeneid when designing Euripides's Hecuba, starring Vanessa Redgrave, for the RSC. The research into Berlioz's life and work has largely come through David Cairns's award-winning biography. "The bloody thing is two volumes long. He could have got it into one book! But it is a magnificent project. Absolutely fascinating. And that's always the way it happens for me. Someone brings me a project I know little about before taking it on, and I find myself asking 'how the fuck didn't I know about this stuff?' It all adds to a bed of information that becomes part of my mental landscape that I then can't imagine not being there."

Les Troyens is directed by David McVicar. The pair also worked together on Salome and Devlin claims her route from theatre and opera into the pop world began with that production. In a South Bank Show about McVicar, Devlin was spotted by the pop singer Mika – "I suspect it was actually his mother who saw the programme, although he insists it was him" – which lead her to work on his stadium concerts. Soon after she was designing the Take That tour, working with some of the team behind the London 2012 events.

She chose Niall Ferguson's history of the British empire as her primary Olympics research book. "I was trying to find some virtuous things about the empire, but most of what I came across was pretty bad. However, British music was and is something we can be very proud of and so we have tried to imagine a celestial radio that only tunes into British music and then made something out of finding your way through the frequencies. There are a lot of technical restrictions – there is only a 4m door for a start, so nothing higher can be brought into the arena than that – so my starting point was simple: what would it be like with just a single voice in the darkness and we've gone from there."

And it was a simple sound and light show – albeit on a more modest scale than in an Olympic stadium – that provided Devlin with one of her first theatrical memories. "There was a son et lumière set in the model of Rye town where I lived as a child. The little houses would light up and they would tell the ghost stories associated with writers who had lived in the area such as Henry James, Rumer Godden and Joan Aiken. I loved it and actually took my own children back to see it quite recently; the magic held up pretty well."

Devlin was born in 1971 and grew up in Sussex. She and her siblings "made things all the time. We'd make board games and try to invent the new Monopoly. We'd always be playing round with projectors and light bulbs." Her theatrical exposure included annual pantos, but also trips to London with godparents to see Andrew Lloyd Webber shows. "I was stage struck, but that was as much to do with coming to London as with the shows. Woven into my memory of the shows was going to a restaurant and seeing the lights of cars going past the window. It was very exciting."

She played the violin, clarinet and piano and studied at the Royal Academy of Music Saturday classes but eventually went on to read English at university. A fine art foundation course followed at St Martin's before she was accepted to study set design on the Motley Theatre Design Course. "People kept telling me to go and look at this course which only has 10 people and is in Drury Lane. I wasn't even that much of a theatregoer – but that's not so unusual among designers. It's a standing joke that you ask what have they been to see lately and they haven't been to see anything – but when I got there I felt completely at home and that's when I started going to see absolutely everything in London as well as making things like a Duracell rabbit. I just got going."

In 1996 she won a Linbury award as a student "and the prize was a job, which is the best thing you can give anyone." She designed a production of Edward II in a swimming pool for the Bolton Octagon and by 1997 she was an associate artist at Bush Theatre from where she would "audaciously" send letters to theatre people asking them to see her shows. Trevor Nunn accepted the invitation – "he wanted to see the show anyway" – and in 1998 asked Devlin to design his new production of Pinter's Betrayal at the Lyttelton. Devlin wrote to Rachel Whiteread, explaining that she intended to pay homage to her art work, House, in her design for a play she thought was about remembered rooms.

"She gave her blessing which was wonderful. But that poor Pinter piece," Devlin laughs. "All it needed was a stage and some good acting. It's all in the writing and did not need all the stuff I laid on to it. But Pinter was so sweet about it and he would introduce me to people and say 'This is Es, she wrote the play.' I'd never do that design now, but I was thrilled that I did it then because it was absolutely what I believed in. It was wonderful that my parents gave us all so much confidence, and it's been a huge help. But when I look back now I do cringe a little. In that sense being given the name Esmeralda was a good as an open invitation to other children to prick that bubble at least a little bit, but some of the things I did were still so wrong, but I just pushed them through because of this confidence. People must have looked at me like I was crazy upstart, but I just muscled along."

It was an approach that soon saw her working with the Rambert Dance Company for the re-opening of Sadlers Wells and being asked to design her first opera for the Guildhall School of Drama. "And then things started to come in thick and fast," designing for the RSC as well as for opera houses all over europe. In 2003 she was offered her first non-operatic musical commission when the group Wire asked her to design one half – Jake and Dinos Chapman designed the other – of their farewell gig at the Barbican.

"I was becoming slightly institutionalised so it came at good time for me. When I began I would be asking theatres for awkward things and they would give me reasons why they couldn't do it. Pretty soon directors were asking me for awkward things and I would be telling them why they couldn't do it. I was getting a little conditioned by the establishment so to step outside theatre gave me a kind of jolt."

Kanye West heard about the Wire show and the two have been working together since 2005. "Seven years is quite something in a world that changes so rapidly. He's a completely extraordinary character. The speed of mind is phenomenal and you really have to be on your toes. You get halfway through a sentence and he says 'Yeah. got it.' And you have to move on. We've had some serious fights because he is a perfectionist. But you have to realise you are working with extraordinary people. I do think performers are a different species. It sounds pretentious, but if you have an opportunity to be part of what they're doing then you put your hands up and help out. I think I'm busy. But just getting up and being West or Gaga for a day is exhausting."

Devlin invited West to see Salome at Covent Garden and on his next tour he incorporated an orchestra pit into his stage show. She says there is increasing crossover between the different worlds in which she operates, particularly in terms of technology, but the essential aims are ultimately the same.

"It is all about creating a coherent world. If you walk into a theatre you trust your imagination to the people putting on the show. That is why it is so important at the beginning of a show to broker the terms of that engagement and then to see it through. It comes down to telling the truth. Honest people are interesting." The act of telling a truth is fascinating whether it's in a theatre, opera house or stadium. "You might think a Take That concert is lacking in truth. But when you are there, with 80,000 other people singing those tunes you see how important they have been to their lives. You hear those songs on the radio, whether by Gary Barlow or Elton John or whoever, and they hook into you before you realise what the song is. There is a huge emotional truth in that for an awful lot of people." One of her notes to self for the Olympics is that people have to get things absolutely instantly. "It has to be get it! Get it! Get it! You can pick out just a fraction of a song and people will recognise it immediately and it takes them to the place they remember it from. The music is going to be wonderful. Putting it on is the tricky bit."

After the last medal has been awarded Devlin and her team will have 16 hours to prepare the set. Half of that time will be spent protecting the pitch. "It's going to be tight. As Jay-Z says: 'Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week,' which is part of the reason that when you work for these guys you can get a bit mangled. You are the person doing the impossible in a week. We will have rehearsals off-site and if we're lucky we'll get one inside on the day, but not necessarily. Flying? Lighting? Video? You'd usually say sort it all out in the tech rehearsal, but there might not be one. I don't normally get stressed, but I am a bit anxious about this one."


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February 28 2012

Caravaggio: Renaissance rock star

The alluring paintings of Caravaggio, Leonardo and Lorenzo Costa hint at the passion of Renaissance secular music

In Caravaggio's picture The Lute Player, which the fiery Lombard artist painted in Rome in the mid-1590s, a beautiful man plays a round bodied instrument that was the electric guitar of the Renaissance. But a lot quieter. People learned the lute for the same reason that teenagers since the 1960s have learned rock guitar, because they thought it made them look sexy. In Caravaggio's painting it works – the lutenist sings seductively among sensual fruits and flowers. But what is he singing?

I've been listening to modern recordings that attempt to capture the sound of Renaissance music, and I am more baffled than ever about what it really sounded like. Looking at Caravaggio's lutenist, we imagine a romantic, alluring song. Yet in many recordings Renaissance madrigals sound like church music, they are so harmonious and pristine.

Maybe musicians who play early music should look harder at Renaissance and Baroque paintings. Works such as Leonardo's portrait of a musician, or Lorenzo Costa's picture of a woman and two men singing together, give intimate glimpses of the world of Renaissance secular music. And again and again, what they stress is the frisson of excitement and desire at the moment of performance.

There was no way to record music in that age; it was always live. That meant it was always a drama between performers and audiences. What Caravaggio's painting shows is that it could be a dangerous, daring drama, with deep issues of love and longing electrifying the chamber where those tender lute notes sounded.

So perhaps when consorts and choirs today recreate early court music, they should have a bit more fun and think less of the harmonies of Pythagoras, and more of a rock concert's drama compressed into a room that happens to be hung with gorgeous tapestries and paintings.

There is one abundantly alive genre that links us directly to the emotional power of music in the age of Caravaggio: opera. Few would deny that opera tends to be passionate and extravagant. It was invented in late 16th-century Italy, drawing together the sounds and sights of the age in a spectacle that delighted the senses.

You can still feel a tension and mythic impulse in a very early opera like Monteverdi's 1607 masterpiece Orfeo. The story Monteverdi tells in his opera is disturbing: Orpheus pursues his lost love into the underworld, and almost succeeds in bringing her back to the realm of the living, but fails at the last moment. It is a story of sex and death that perfectly matches the provocative beauty of Caravaggio's lutenist. This is what music meant 400 years ago: longing and deep emotions. Renaissance music is reborn every time an opera house thrills to grand passions.


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February 21 2012

02mydafsoup-01
Play fullscreen
Furtwängler - Mozart: Don Giovanni (Salzburg Festival 1954 |  ~ 3h)

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Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra 
Choir of the Vienna State Opera

Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwängler

--------------------------

Leporello, Basso - Otto EDELMANN
Donna Anna, Soprano - Elisabeth GRÜMMER
Don Giovanni, Baritone - Cesare SIEPI
Commendatore, Basso - Deszö ERNSTER
Don Ottavio, Tenor - Anton DERMOTA
Donna Elvira, Soprano - Lisa della CASA
Zerlina, Soprano - Erna BERGER
Masetto, Basso - Walter BERRY

December 14 2011

Readers' cultural review of 2011: What, no Katy B?

Last week our critics picked their highlights of 2011. Did they get it right? Readers respond with their own highs (and lows)

MattB75

One Man, Two Guvnors was the most fun I've had in a theatre for years – easily the best play of 2011, and James Corden best performer. The National theatre largely misfired for me: A Woman Killed with Kindness, Cherry Orchard, 13, The Kitchen, Frankenstein and Greenland were all largely disappointing.

The RSC's Homecoming was the best revival. Rupert Goold's Merchant of Venice was great fun, even if the inconsistency in Portia's characterisation (from ditzy blond Glee fan to brilliant prosecutor, hm) took the edge off it.

Tom Brooke was my favourite actor of the year – in The Kitchen, and I Am the Wind.

oogin

Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid are still two of my least-admired starchitects. However, credit where it's due. I had the pleasure of wandering Toronto's AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), redesigned by Gehry [a few years ago], and apart from his usual frivolous facade, the interior had been quite brilliantly done. So restrained and sophisticated: words I never never thought I'd use for the old showboater.

daveportivo

Katy B owned pop in 2011, or temporarily leased the lower sections of the charts from Adele at least. Seven singles off one album and a successful B-side, bridging the gap between cool, intriguing dance and charming, relatable 2000s-style British pop-star writing. Loved it.

Kleistphile

The programme of the year has been Mark Cousins' superb history of the cinema, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, on More4. Incredibly wide-ranging, informative and inspiring, with extremely intelligent analysis of how film developed and how the great directors innovated.

drdownunder

Artist Christian Marclay's awesome 24-hour film-montage The Clock, shown as part of the British Art Show in Plymouth. Mesmeric, fascinating, witty editing and marvellous film-buffery content.

SlimJim888

The Inbetweeners Movie. The snobs may scoff but this film says more about Britain and its youth than 20 Ken Loach films ever could.

OldFriar

Two of the greatest musical evenings were the appearances of the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer in Mahler's First symphony, and the zany late-night Prom with audience requests including Bartók, Kodály and Stravinsky. A month before that, the magic combination of Andris Nelsons and the CBSO in Richard Strauss and Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky.

At the Royal Opera, the three most memorable performances were Madama Butterfly with Kristine Opolais in the title role and her husband Andris Nelsons in the pit; Werther with Sophie Koch and Rolando Villazón doing his best (still short of what Jonas Kaufmann can do); and the recent revival of Faust, with Vittorio Grigolo, René Pape, Angela Gheorghiu and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

digit

The release by the BFI on DVD and Blu-Ray of Barney Platts-Mills's 1971 film Private Road, starring Bruce Robinson (who later wrote Withnail and I). I first saw this in about 1987 on TV and I've been wanting to see it again ever since. Even better than I thought.

Mark42

Gruff Rhys's Hotel Shampoo was my favourite album of the year; Cashier No 9 was not given the recognition it deserved. Enjoyed Kate Bush, Tinie Tempah, Noel Gallagher and Will Young's offerings, but very disappointed with Coldplay. Adele: lovely voice but too many songs sound the same on her album.

Still, it wasn't all bad: the end of Westlife and hopefully the beginning of the end for X Factor.

dbeecee

Right Here Right Now; Format international photography festival in Derby. Thousands of photographers took part from all over the world, including Joel Meyerowitz and Bruce Gilden. An exciting and eclectic mix showing the best in street photography.

davidabsalom

Best resurrection: Rab C Nesbitt. Comedy of the year for me. Now that the Tories are back in, he seems to have found his mojo again.

zibibbo

Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery. I think the major problem with this absurdly hyped show is that, apart from the two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks and the unfinished St Jerome, the other six "Leonardo" paintings on display are either too unattractively gauche, stiff and mannered to be considered good or significant. Or they're too implausibly naturalistic to be an autograph work (La Belle Ferronière is too lifelike to be by Leonardo). Or just too plain weird and damaged to take seriously (step forward, the newly discovered Salvator Mundi).

Thank you, Adrian Searle, for having the integrity to give your honest opinion about this insanely promoted but hugely disappointing show.

andglove

The High Country, an album by Portland band Richmond Fontaine, demands your attention from first song to last. It's one of the only albums that will give you the same sense of satisfaction that finishing a novel does.

LDTBFJ

Bridesmaids was a great and genuinely funny film. Comedies (and female comedians) are too frequently dismissed, especially by the Oscars board.

Snarlygog

British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet in Plymouth. It was good to see [Christian Marclay's] The Clock and Sarah Lucas's work up close and personal. At least there is an emphasis on craft skills in video art: good focus, framing and timing are back in fashion.

alphabetbands

Nicola Roberts, the good one from Girls Aloud. In her album Cinderella's Eyes she lays out her inner demons and anguish on a platter of sumptuous dance pop hooks and beats. The album is so simple that my two-year-old can sing along, and layered enough that we slightly elder statesmen can appreciate it as well.

juliendonkeyboy

In no particular order: Sufjan Stevens live at Southbank: ambitious, experimental, joyous, exciting, sad. Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle: the sixth episode, Democracy, was quite simply awesome. Senna is my film pick: made in 2010, but didn't get released on these shores until 2011. Wonderfully moving.

habsfan0303

Propeller's Comedy of Errors was riotous. I mean, how often does a naked grown man run past you with a sparkler wedged into his buttocks?

glynluke

Archipelago is the worst film I have ever seen in 50-odd years of cinema-going. How Peter Bradshaw and Philip French can find a single redeeming quality in this dreadful two-hour river of bathetic, emotionless, drama-free drivel baffles me.

Shatillion

I loved Attack the Block. I got mugged the week before it was released and actually found watching it quite cathartic. I was rooting for the little shits by the end. That's good screenwriting.

JimTheFish

A really disappointing year for British TV, which has been on a downward slide. Doctor Who was probably still the best thing domestically. The Crimson Petal and the White and The Hour were underwhelming misfires; The Shadow Line was about the only really promising new kid on the block.

The basic problem is that there's just not enough TV drama being produced. We need more one-offs, more Plays for Today to allow TV to find new voices and take more chances. Everything seems to be market-researched and focus-grouped into mediocrity.

LocalBird

We went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park this summer and were blown away by the incredible Jaume Plensa exhibition; the alabaster heads took my breath away. Beautiful, mesmerising and enchanting.

Carefree

Memorable plays: Flare Path, Frankenstein (Jonny Lee Miller as the Creature was brilliant), and Much Ado at the Globe (Eve Best and Charles Edwards were good enough to almost match my memories of Janet McTeer and Mark Rylance as Beatrice and Benedick).

Damper squibs were Chicken Soup with Barley (far too long). Conor Macpherson's The Veil at the National started brilliantly but didn't deliver the beautiful, haunting, elegiac power of The Weir – a great shame.

Alarming

There were aspects of Grayson Perry's Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman that drove me round the bend. But he wrote well about his theme and chose some absolutely lovely objects from the British Museum's collection.

uptomost

85A collective from Glasgow's brilliant mechanical opera Idimov and the Dancing Girl at the Secret Garden Party. Spooky, funny, ingenious.

AdminGuru

The Tree of Life: a vast expansive film with multiple interpretations, and little in the way of film convention for the casual viewer to latch on to. Viewers fall into two camps I think: those who want simply to be entertained and led, and those who want to explore and participate. Tree of Life is about participation.

Wrighthanes

I just couldn't get The Tree of Life. I tried. I wanted to like it. Admittedly I was on a Singapore Airlines flight, which is not the ideal way to appreciate its cinematic beauty.

DeunanKnute

The Tree of Life is quite possibly the most overrated movie of all time. The sheer brilliance of every single actor isn't in dispute, nor is the superb cinematography. The movie itself is the problem, because it's a real clunker. It's also one of the few films I've seen at the cinema where people were either (vociferously) walking out in disgust or staying behind just to boo.

GorillaPie

The [designs for the] new US Embassy in London. I realise these buildings have to be more fortresses than offices, but really. I'm disappointed that such an important new commission isn't going to be more iconic. Especially since I live opposite the site.

Gundmundsdottir

Possibly the biggest disappointment was the final track on Bon Iver's second album: it never fails to surprise me with just how cheesy and plain bad it is.

CurlyScot

Some of my favourite moments have been in otherwise unremarkable shows. I was slowly won over by Susan Hiller at Tate Modern, and Nancy Spero's works Azur and Hours of the Night II [at the Serpentine] were so incredible I forgot all the meh stuff that surrounded them. The only exhibition I have been unreservedly knocked over by was Mike Nelson's Coral Reef at Tate Britain – an old piece so I'm not sure it counts. Not a superlative year; let's hope 2012 is better and isn't overwhelmed by a spurious Cultural Olympiad.


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December 09 2011

Europe u-knighted: King Arthur proves how European the British are

With the EU in turmoil, David Cameron would do well to remember that King Arthur, hero of British folklore, has in fact enjoyed a long reign in European cultural history

King Arthur must be turning in his grave – or emerging from his cave on Snowdon to save us all. That would be cool.

Arthur of the Britons, defender of Albion against the invading hordes – don't make me laugh. Our greatest national myth is proof of how deeply European we are – and how much Britain has contributed to the idea of Europe. There may be fewer and fewer "good Europeans" left in Britain, as the EU dream apparently becomes a nightmare. But Arthur is their king.

It's a cultural degradation that so many people nowadays seek the origins of Arthur in a dark age twilight of battling Brits. The "real" chieftain Arthur, supposedly fighting Saxons in the ruins of Roman Britain, will never be found. What's more, his paltry traces are dull in comparison to the great European medieval legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

The wonderful thing about Arthur is how a hero of British folklore (apparently originating in Wales), with his life recorded in pseudo-factual detail by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the first half of the 12th century, became a sublime artefact of European culture. The genius who made Arthur great was not British, but French. In the second half of the 12th century, Chretien de Troyes sang beautiful tales in which Arthur's court becomes a fabulous place of chivalry and love. Queen Guinevere, Gawain, and Sir Lancelot become romantic characters in his works. The tradition he founded became one of the strongest forces in gothic culture throughout Europe. In France, followers of Chretien told the stories of Lancelot and Guinevere and the pursuit of the Holy Grail in epics of eerie magic. In Britain, the French version of "our" national myth was brought home in the poem of Gawain and the Green Knight. It is no coincidence that when Thomas Malory compiled all the stories of Arthur in 15th-century English, his book was given a French title – Le Morte d'Arthur – for his sources were French.

Arthur did not stop in France. The Arthurian knight Perceval and his quest for the Holy Grail – as told by Chretien de Troyes – became the German epic Parzival. In Italy, the world of King Arthur was painted on the walls of Renaissance palaces in Mantua and Ferrara.

In 19th-century culture, Arthur continued his pan-European reign. While the pre-Raphaelites were painting Arthurian myth, Richard Wagner was dramatising it as opera. What is fascinating is that all through this long European cultural history, the scenography of the legend remained Celtic and western British. Wagner's Tristan and Isolde is set in Cornwall and Brittany, just as the tales of Chretien mix Breton place names with places such as Carleon and Tintagel.

Arthur, British and European, should remind us who we are. We are Europeans, like it or not. Even when the whole continent is sitting in the Siege Perilous.


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October 11 2011

This week's arts diary

Harman grabs shadow-culture post, plus a whiff of San Francisco Opera, and Fiennes in art-world spoof

Hurray for Harman

What to make of Harriet Harman as the new shadow culture secretary – a job she'll combine with chairmanship and deputy leadership of the Labour party? For a start, Harman's far too powerful within the party to have had the job imposed upon her; she must have wanted a policy area to dig into. But as for the arts part of the role, it's hard to see it looming large when her immediate concerns will surely be the Leveson inquiry and – let it be hoped – a defence of the BBC.

She is not someone who has made much of the arts in her political career to date, but there's plenty of music in her family: her daughter, Amy Harman, has just become joint principal bassoonist of London's Philharmonia Orchestra. And these things do matter: David Miliband, when at the department of education, was influential in promoting music education. No coincidence that his wife was, and is, a violinist in the London Symphony Orchestra.

Harman's not afraid of political knockabout, and of course she is fantastically experienced, so it will be interesting to see how she tackles culture secretary Jeremy Hunt head-on. Finally, the consistent thread through her career has been her feminism: and frankly, we just can't have enough of that in the arts. Or anywhere, for that matter.

Bad smells in California

A mole from San Francisco Opera has passed me a memo sent around the company. "Dear Artists & Staff," it begins. "PLEASE REFRAIN FROM WEARING ANY TYPE OF FRAGRANCE (PERFUME, STRONG HAIR SPRAY, SHAVING COLOGNE, ETC.) AT ANY REHEARSAL OR PERFORMANCE. Many people are allergic to fragrant products; this allergy can prove damaging to the singer's vocal cords, not to mention the miserable symptoms. We are often all in very close proximity and it is very important that we all take the time to be thoughtful and considerate regarding the use of fragrances." You can just tell there's some madly prima-donnaish singer behind this. They'll have only themselves to blame when they have to inhale Eau de Sweaty Tenor, unleavened by a hint of Chanel.

Fiennes in art-world spoof

Elmgreen and Dragset entertained visitors to the 2009 Venice Biennale with their mordant work The Collectors, which saw the Nordic and Danish pavilions transformed into art aficionados' homes, one of which featured a dead collector face-down in his pool. The Scandinavian duo have now written a play, Happy Days in the Art World, starring Joseph Fiennes, Charles Edwards and Kim Criswell.

It is, says Michael Elmgreen, a Beckettian (big clue in the title) look at their own existence, "with biographical stuff from our lives as well as a lot of lies". The main characters will, says Elmgreen, be "cynical and humorous and it will be very unflattering; if the play also makes fun of others, it certainly makes more fun of ourselves". It opens in New York next month, at the Skirball Centre for the Performing Arts. There are also two preview performances at Glasgow's Tramway on Friday and Saturday next week.


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August 17 2011

Roger Butlin obituary

Innovative stage designer with a love of baroque opera and a painterly sensibility

In 1972 Thomas Allen was a young baritone preparing to sing Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd for Welsh National Opera. Although nervous, he was reassured by the atmospheric designs, and later recalled thinking: "This piece is going to be a success. We can't fail," because Roger Butlin's set "was so wonderful that we would have been idiots not to make it work."

One of the earliest opera designs by Butlin, who has died aged 76, it proved a landmark production. For Michael Geliot's intensely realistic version, Butlin designed a cross-section of an 18th-century warship. The effect was evocative and claustrophobic. As the critic Rodney Milnes wrote: "Butlin's exceptionally well thought-out sets and costumes indicate many hours well spent in the National Maritime Museum." Even the backcloth had "the cracked-varnish patina of a nautical seascape". Butlin's sensitive, graceful designs, especially of Britten and pre-romantic opera, added lustre to British and international stages.

Born in Stafford, he studied interior design and textiles at the West of England College of Art, Bristol, and for six years taught art at Cheltenham College junior school, where he met his wife, Joanna. In 1966 Sean Kenny's striking set for The Flying Dutchman at Covent Garden inspired his shift into theatre. Awarded an Arts Council design scholarship, he assisted at Sadler's Wells before making his full professional debut at the newly reopened Greenwich theatre, in south-east London.

Butlin's design for the musical play Martin Luther King (1969) is now in the V&A collection. A strong hexagonal thrust stage was backed by a screen showing news images of unrest and police brutality. As head of design at Greenwich (1969-72), he had successes that included Barbara Windsor playing Marie Lloyd in Sing a Rude Song; The Three Sisters with Mia Farrow and Joan Plowright; and Peter Nichols's barbed, nostalgic comedy Forget-Me-Not Lane, which transferred to the West End and secured Butlin a Variety award nomination.

Butlin had a painterly sensibility, and beautifully achieved panoramas often shaped his stage designs. John Cox's 1974 Glyndebourne production of Idomeneo (later released on DVD), dominated by a series of metallic hoops, was backed by Turner's views of the aristocratic Petworth estate. The critic Peter Conrad described how "the Turners, seen in tunnel vision as if through the wrong end of a telescope, betokened a classical calm which Mozart's characters, agitated by romantic emotion, had already left behind them."

Botticelli's Birth of Venus inspired an entrancing Return of Ulysses at Kent Opera (1978), while the award-winning Così Fan Tutte at ENO (1985) offered a balmy Bay of Naples. More recently, Butlin's Purcell productions with the director Thomas Guthrie were inspired by British artists: the first world war artist David Jones for King Arthur (2007), and the anguished fantasies of Richard Dadd for The Fairy Queen, which English Touring Opera tours this autumn. The director Tim Carroll believes that baroque opera "touched something very deeply in him", as did the "optimism and joie de vivre" of the age of enlightenment.

Janet Baker chose Gluck's Alceste as her farewell to Covent Garden (1981), and recorded an observer remarking that Butlin's set "looked exactly like the music". Butlin returned to the Royal Opera in 1998 with a black-and-white Marriage of Figaro, and also worked in Rome, Brussels and Dallas. His Barber of Seville, with Cox, featured in an early season at the Sydney Opera House in 1976.

Although proud to design for the world's renowned stages, he also relished smaller, quixotic projects. "He was always struggling with difficult causes," Allen recalled. "They appealed to him." Few were as precarious as Kent Opera, innovative but perpetually underfunded, for which Butlin and Norman Platt, the company's founder, produced a stream of memorable productions (Handel's Agrippina at Sadler's Wells was nominated for a Society of West End Theatre award in 1982).

The company's funding was axed in 1989, but Platt revived New Kent Opera in 1994. The opening production, Britten's Prodigal Son, paired Butlin with Carroll – Butlin relished working with new artists and loved to watch talent bloom. The pair formed a close friendship and created notable productions of Orfeo, The Turn of the Screw, and Acis and Galatea. Carroll recalled how the designer would make his young colleagues howl with laughter at his mock rap, but nonetheless refused to compromise his exacting design demands.

Butlin and Allen became friends on Billy Budd (he later gave his production sketches to Allen's son). He also collaborated on the singer's directorial debut, Britten's Albert Herring at the Royal College of Music (2002). Viewed through a sepia gauze painted with an Edwardian-style picture postcard, one critic hailed the "brilliantly designed" seaside shenanigans "that could stand comparison even with Glyndebourne's virtually definitive staging".

Comedy was unintentional in Spontini's La Vestale (Wexford, 1979), commemorated in Hugh Vickers's book Even Greater Operatic Disasters (1982). Butlin's raked, shiny white stage was treated to prevent slippage. When a zealous stagehand scrubbed it clean, the chorus "one by one shot gloriously down the stage to join their colleagues in a struggling heap at the footlights". Butlin, listening to a live radio broadcast, was baffled by the audience's helpless guffaws.

Although opera was central to his career, he enjoyed theatre, designing two George Bernard Shaw plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Misalliance (1986), in which Jane Lapotaire's Polish aviator crashed her plane into an elegant Surrey conservatory. Later, he and Carroll worked at Shakespeare's Globe, notably on The Two Noble Kinsmen (2000), staging this anguished chivalric romance around a vast warhorse's skull, encased in armour (the cast affectionately named it Shergar).

For almost two decades, Butlin lived in the Kentish oast house which had been Kent Opera's office. These years were far from easy, troubled by illness, financial hardship and the death of his son Tom of a brain tumour in 1994, aged 24. When diagnosed with the same condition, he said simply: "If Tom can face this, then so can I." Friends were moved by his acceptance of loss. He was never bitter. "He was the gentlest of people," said Allen, "entirely loveable."

He is survived by Joanna (although divorced, they remained close), his daughter, Mandarava, who designed puppets for several of his productions, and his son, Conrad.

• Roger Butlin, stage designer, born 1 June 1935; died 23 July 2011


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August 16 2011

When Cat's Eyes met Ron Arad

Horrors frontman Faris Badwan tells Dorian Lynskey about his new work: an opera-pop crossover featuring a light-emitting curtain by Ron Arad. Will it be better than the day he fooled the Pope?

In the basement of Ron Arad's studio in Camden, London, a promising artistic collaboration is coming under a little strain – and table tennis is to blame. Arad, the Israeli-born artist, designer and architect, and Faris Badwan, singer with the Horrors, are both fiercely competitive players. Arad has the advantage of having designed the table, a curious, broken-backed affair that sinks in the middle as if it's been quake-damaged, and sends the ball spinning in unpredictable directions. But Badwan, who has height and long arms in his favour, is winning. "No more Mr Nice Guy," growls Arad as he claws back points. But, just before he can draw level, the pair are summoned upstairs. A rematch is promised.

The two men have other, less fractious interests to bond over. Both are restlessly prolific. In the past year, Badwan has completed the third Horrors record, Skying, and launched Cat's Eyes, a project with Canadian opera soprano Rachel Zeffira, both to wide acclaim. Sixty-year-old Arad has been designing furniture, buildings and art installations since the 1970s. Deyan Sudjic's 1989 book about him was called Restless Furniture. Arad's 2009 MoMa retrospective was called No Discipline, and included everything from carbon-fibre armchairs to polyurethane bottle racks. Both titles are useful indicators of Arad's aesthetic.

His studio, which he has owned since the mid-1980s, is stuffed with his playful creations, most of which are curved: tables, chairs, window frames, even parts of the floor and ceiling. At one end is a fibre-optic curtain, a prototype for the huge circular version – eight metres by 18 and made of 5,600 silicon rods – currently installed at the Roundhouse across the road for three weeks. Arad has called his installation Curtain Call, and has invited musicians, designers, visual artists and performers to use the 360 degree curtain however they wish. "There was going to be a chef," he says, "but he dropped out."

Cat's Eyes are at Arad's studio on a rainy summer evening to shoot a video for their new single, The Best Person I Know, using the prototype curtain.

"What are you going to do here?" asks Arad, a cheerful, Chaplinesque figure.

"We're going to use a lot of your furniture if that's all right," Badwan says politely.

"Everything's all right!" says Arad. "This is a progressive kindergarten here."

The two men were introduced by Zeffira, who has known Arad since she sang with his daughter Dara in a choir in Hampstead several years ago (his other daughter Lail is also a singer). Zeffira grew up in "a little hick town" in Canada, notable only for having the world's largest lead and zinc smelter. Aptly, the dominant teen soundtrack was heavy metal. "I had to hide the fact that I liked classical music to hang out with the cool kids," she says. "My parents wanted me to have some culture so they force-fed me it. Before I met Faris, I had a huge hole in my playlist."

Badwan introduced her to obscure girl group records; she played him Bach and Ligeti. Zeffira had once sung for Pope John Paul II and used her Vatican contacts to secure the duo's debut show at St Peter's Basilica. "I didn't bring it up with Faris for ages because he hates gimmicky things," she says.

"It seemed ridiculous in the beginning," he confirms, "but then we thought it would be inimitable."

"It was all lies after that," she continues with a touch of guilt. She told the Vatican they were a choir called St Jude's and added to the end of the mass a song called Psalm 23, in reality an arrangement of their album-closing number I Knew It Was Over; the live Vatican performance can be seen on YouTube. "I think they thought Faris was a page-turner," she says. "If I'd have said we're a pop band, they'd have said no because it was a serious mass. It would have been totally disrespectful. I did confession afterwards. In my mind."

"The challenge wasn't to shock," says Badwan. "It was to fit in."

For someone who used to call himself Faris Rotter in the early days of the Horrors, Badwan is a quiet, thoughtful character with a wry sense of humour. The son of a Palestinian neurosurgeon, he attended Rugby school and went on to study at Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design in London. He didn't think much of it. "I was quite competitive, and there weren't many people up for doing anything – like turning up. It wasn't like I felt I was the best person around. I just didn't feel that people were really engaged. I found that when I was left to my own devices, I got a lot more done."

He still draws every day. "He can't stop," says Arad. "This is the first time I've seen him without his sketchpad." Deprived of his pen, Badwan spends the whole interview fiddling with a spoon. Asked why he launched the collaboration with Zeffira just a few months before the Horrors' return, he shrugs. "I guess I'm quite impulsive, and Rachel wants to do things so she's pushing me along. Honestly, when I get bored I just do stupid things."

"Like the wax mountain," says Zeffira, smiling. "Oh God, listen to this. For months and months, he was melting drips of wax and built an actual mountain out of candles. It was huge. It took hours and hours of dripping wax."

Badwan mutters with unease. He seems constantly in the process of wriggling out of things that bore or confine him. A mention of David Lynch as an influence on Cat's Eyes draws a heavy sigh. "David Lynch is great, but it's just the repetitious nature of [the comparison]. It's like the goth thing. Now Rachel's the goth queen by association. We're 'the dark duo'."

Suing Michael Jackson

Even being in the Horrors, which he loves, has its bothersome deadlines and expectations. "Before you make anything to be presented to an audience, it feels like a thing out of reach; and then, when you've been doing it for a while, you start to see the pattern. Once the pattern is obvious, it loses a lot of the magic."

Arad nods sympathetically. "When you do a building, it can take five years and it's full of obstacles and difficulties that have nothing to do with your creativity. But some things have no negotiation at all. You just do what you want to do when you want to do it, and you're not answerable to anyone. So you do the whole spectrum from irresponsible to super-responsible – sickly responsible."

Has he worked with a musician before? "Yes, I sued Michael Jackson once. If you go to a video called Scream, they used my pieces as props without asking me." He smiles. "This is my first non-litigious collaboration."

Cat's Eyes are sketchy on the details of what exactly they will do with the curtain. Badwan doesn't like to over-explain anything. A suggestion that the duo's album might have been a deliberate attempt to make a narrative song cycle (it certainly makes sense as one) is met with uncomfortable denials. "The best things appear by accident," he says. "When it's too self-conscious, you don't get any real emotion. We just became really excited about the whole thing. When you find someone you enjoy working with, it sends you into overdrive. I guess Ron's the same with his output."

"There's a need to play and to fight boredom and to keep yourself entertained," says Arad, adding that it's a bonus if you can earn a living from it. "I think we're all lucky in that way. We get away with it."

• Ron Arad's Curtain Call is at the Roundhouse, London NW1 (0844 482 8008) until 29 August. Cat's Eyes perform there on 22 August. Cat's Eyes by Cat's Eyes is out now on Polydor.


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May 29 2011

A seat near the deer, please

This pop-up opera house in the heart of the English countryside is one of the most thrilling venues in Britain. Jonathan Glancey goes wild at Garsington's new pavilion

Robin Snell takes a look around the rolling fields and hills of Wormsley Park, a luscious green space in the Chilterns that's home to hares, kites, sheep, deer and partridges. "The site we found was perfect in pretty much every way," he says. "It has a beautiful outlook. It's quiet. And we've been able to fit the pavilion into the landscape very conveniently."

Snell, an architect and clarinettist, has reason to be proud. The pavilion in question is an astonishing creation: a 600-seat opera house in the heart of the coutryside. What's more, after its five-week season, this daunting collection of steel poles, timber planks and PVC screens will be packed away. This is pop-up opera, and when The Magic Flute opens here on Thursday it should confirm this delightful marriage of architecture and landscape as one of the most thrilling places in the country to hear live music.

Wormsley Park is the new home of Garsington Opera, founded in 1989 by Leonard Ingrams, a banker and violinist. He bought Garsington, a 17th-century Oxfordshire manor house, in 1982. Within seven years, inspired by Glyndebourne, he had created his own country-house opera in the walled gardens of his estate. "But," says Anthony Whitworth-Jones, Garsington's director, "when he died in 2005, it was clear the show would have to go elsewhere. The family, although hugely supportive, wanted their home back."

Whitworth-Jones and his team visited more than 40 sites before settling on Wormsley. They could have gone further afield, he says, "which might have made our search easier, but that would have meant breaking away from our backers, who are our audiences. Garsington was a local event. At heart it still is – and always will be."

Wormsley Park, a 2,500-acre estate boasting an 18th-century country house, is the former pile of philanthropist Paul Getty, who died there in 2003. It is now home to Mark Getty and his family, who have granted Garsington a 15-year lease, on condition that the site – next to the estate's farm and Getty's famous cricket ground – is returned to grazing land for the deer after each season.

As a result, the pavilion doesn't just settle into its surroundings, it actually exploits them – in particular the ha-ha, as the hidden ditch designed to keep the deer in is called. "The ha-ha now doubles as the orchestra pit," explains Snell, who was project architect for Glyndebourne's superb 1994 opera house. "So we've not had to excavate. The concrete foundations are like pads set into the grass with the building bolted on top. Once it's taken down, the pads are grassed over and you'd never know there had been a building of any sort here, let alone an opera house."

Want decor? Then look around

Snell based his design on traditional Japanese kabuki theatres. These colourful timber pavilions, which flowered in the 17th and 18th centuries, made elegant use of sliding screens and were often connected by bridges to gardens outside. Stage, bridge and garden would be used for performance, making indoors and outdoors meld into one. This spirit lives on in Snell's sparsely yet elegantly functional steel frame. Apart from its gently rippling roof, it does little to draw attention to itself; all the colour stems from either the gardens, costumes or sets.

"It's simply a question of what was appropriate," says Snell. "We needed to find a way of building, and deconstructing, that would be quick and easy. This is a big kit of parts that serves as a frame to performances. The landscape, along with what's on stage, is all the decoration you could want. Things might be different if this was to be a permanent building, though."

No one will expect a temporary pavilion to be as proper a setting for full-blooded opera as, say, the Royal Opera House. Yet the Garsington pavilion really is fully functioning, complete not just with high-ceilinged auditorium, stage and pit, but also with boxes, champagne bar, verandas and stairs to parade up and down in fine summer frocks and dusted-down DJs – all the while looking out at that meandering view. That's not something you spend a lot of time doing in a big city venue.

In fact, thanks to its clear screen sides, you can see out into the forests and fields from any one of the linen-covered, timber-framed seats. And, as performances start at 6pm, the auditorium will still be filled with light as the orchestra strikes up. "A part of the magic," says Snell, "is that the audience arrives in bright sunshine and leaves in the dark, when the pavilion lights up, changing character almost completely. It's meant to be a theatrical experience in every way."

Let's pray it doesn't hail

But what happens when it rains? "We thought a lot about this," says acoustician Robert Essert. "What we've come up with is a fine mesh screen, a bit like a mosquito net, stretched above the roof. This breaks raindrops down into tiny globules, so that when they hit the roof below, they will have turned into mist. Unless we get hail, you won't hear rain inside the auditorium."

Essert has also shaped what he calls "windsurfer sails" along the sides of the pavilion. These bounce sound from the pit and the stage back into and along the auditorium, so that it isn't lost to the skies. The roof is designed to do likewise. The pavilion promises some fine sights backstage, too: to swap wigs, change costumes, or just take a breather, performers will have to nip off to nearby farm buildings, bustling along paths and through flowerbeds.

Oboist Helena Gaunt can remember some stormy nights at the previous Garsington venue. "You couldn't hear yourself play because of the wind and the rain. But equally, you'd have those extraordinary evenings when the birds were singing in the first half, and dusk was falling on a warm, still night. There's something very special about that. And audiences seem to love the spirit of it come what may."


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May 25 2011

02mydafsoup-01
Play fullscreen
Georg Friedrich Händel: Agrippina - Aria: Ogni Vento

Youtube permalink
yt-account: elias12186

George Frederick Handel (Composer),
Jeanne Lamon (Conductor),
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra (Orchestra),
Karina Gauvin (Performer)

------------------------------------------------

libretto via
http://www.opera-guide.ch/opera.php?id=142


Atto Secondo
SCENA XXI°

Aria

AGRIPPINA
Ogni vento ch’al porto lo spinga,
benché fiero minacci tempeste,
l’ampie vele gli spande il nocchier.
Regni il figlio, mia sola lusinga,
sian le stelle in aspetto funeste,
senza pena le guarda il pensier.

------------------------------------------

AGRIPPINA
Für jeden Wind, der ihn in den Hafen bringt,
auch wenn wilde Stürme drohen,
setzt der Seemann volle Segel.
Dass der Sohn herrsche, ist mein einziger Wunsch.
Mögen die Sterne auch dunkel sein,
der Geist betrachtet sie doch ohne Sorge.

------------------------------------------

Google translation in EN

Wherefore the harbor every wind push it,
although fierce storms threaten,
the wide spreads the pilot's wings.
Kingdoms son, my only lure,
are the stars look dire,
worth the watch without thinking

March 13 2011

02mydafsoup-01
Play fullscreen

   
Erster Akt Chor der Gefangenen - O welche Lust! Kurt Wehofschitz (Erster Gefangener) Raymond Wolansky (Zweiter Gefangener) Philarmonia Chorus, Chorleiter Wilhelm Pitz
Philharmonisches Orchester London
Dirigent Otto Klemperer
Erster Akt
Chor der Gefangenen -
O welche Lust!

Text:

GEFANGENEN
O, welche Lust!
in freier Luft den Atem
leicht zu heben, O, welche Lust!
nur hier, nur hier ist Leben,
der Kerker eine Gruft, eine Gruft!

ERSTER GEFANGENE
Wir wollen mit Vertrauen
auf Gottes Hülfe,
auf Gottes Hülfe bauen,
die Hoffnung flüstert sanft mir zu,
wir werden frei, wir finden Ruh,
wir finden Ruh'.

GEFANGENEN
O Himmel Rettung,
welch ein Glück,
o Freiheit, o Freiheit,
kehrst du zurück?

ZWEITE GEFANGENE
Sprecht leise, haltet euch zurück,
wir sind belauscht mir
Ohr und Blick.

GEFANGENEN
Sprecht leise, haltet euch zurück,
wir sind belauscht mir
Ohr und Blick.

-----------------------------------------------

PRISONERS' CHORUS
Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Up here alone is life!
The dungeon is a grave.

FIRST PRISONER
We shall with all our faith
Trust in the help of God!
Hope whispers softly in my ears!
We shall be free, we shall find peace.

ALL THE OTHERS
Oh Heaven! Salvation! Happiness!
Oh Freedom! Will you be given us?

SECOND PRISONER
Speak softly! Be on your guard!
We are watched with eye and ear.

ALL
Speak softly! Be on your guard!
We are watched with eye and ear.
Oh what joy, in the open air
Freely to breathe again!
Up here alone is life.
Speak softly! Be on your guard!
We are watched with eye and ear.

February 28 2011

Move over, Sydney

The world's most spectacular opera house has just opened in China – but it could have been built in Cardiff. Jonathan Glancey reports on Zaha Hadid's stunning new project

In pictures: Zaha Hadid's Guangzhou Opera House

I walk up the ramp of the new Guangzhou Opera House, and suddenly it seems like Chinese New Year. The brand new skyscrapers that surround it, each named after some global finance corporation, burst into neon life, flickering and flashing in a way that makes Las Vegas seem like a mere twinkle. By contrast, the opera house seems almost serene – remarkable given that it's the latest design by Zaha Hadid, an architect celebrated for buildings that shoot across the urban landscape like bolts of lightning. Yet, while the pulsating lights disguise what are regular office towers, once inside, Hadid's opera house reveals itself in all its complexity, at once highly theatrical and insistently subtle.

Set in Haixinsha Square, a brand new stretch of south China's ever-expanding trading city, the opera house takes the form of what appear to be two enormous pebbles that might have been washed up on the shores of the Pearl river, on which Guangzhou stands. Rough-shaped things sheathed in triangles of granite and glass protrusions, one houses the main auditorium while the smaller encloses a multipurpose performance space. There's no question, though, that the opera house is best experienced at night. As darkness falls and the foyers fill up with people, the building magically comes to life.

The opening-night audience has come to experience Akram Khan's cacophonous dance piece, Vertical Road. Yet all eyes are trained on the doors as the architect makes her entrance. Tonight, Hadid is architecture's Queen of the Night, making stately progress through a phalanx of photographers. For the British contingent in the wave-like foyer, there is something special in seeing Hadid inside the building she should have built in Britain years ago.

Ah, yes, the Cardiff Bay Opera House. In 1994, Hadid had designed a magical theatre for the Welsh coast. It would have become the most radical and compelling building in Britain, but an alliance of narrow-minded politicians, peevish commentators and assorted dullards holding the Lottery purse strings ensured it was never built. More than a decade on, Hadid has built her opera house. Of course, it's not the same design, yet the building embodies the spirit as well as something of the presence of the great theatre we could have had in Britain rather than here, 6,000 miles away.

The Chinese had been thinking of an opera house in Guangzhou as early as 1993, when mayor Lin Shusen championed the new commercial and cultural quarter by the river. "It was incredible," says Hadid. "When I first came to Guangzhou in 1981, it seemed such a hard and dour place with everyone in Chairman Mao uniforms. By the late 90s it had begun to grow very fast indeed, but where we're standing now [in the foyer of the opera house], there was nothing whatsoever."

Even in a city famous for building at breakneck speed, the opera house has taken more than five years to complete. But then, this was never going to be an ordinary commission. The main building comprises a freestanding concrete auditorium set within an audacious granite and glass-clad steel frame. The exposed frame is a stunning thing, a kind of giant spider's web protruding in several unlikely directions. It seems to challenge the laws not just of conventional geometry, but of gravity itself.

The Chinese state engineers charged with the project were pushed to new limits. "The magic, though," says Simon Yu, the Scottish-born project architect, "is in the joints that hold the structure in place." We look up at them. Here are star-like, cast steel junction boxes that keep the adventurous structure in tension. They look spectacular. "We made them the same way they made great medieval bells. They were sandcast in an old fashioned foundry in Shanghai where the sparks flew like . . . fireworks."

Between this exposed steel skeleton and the auditorium lie the foyers. Here, you are hard pressed to find a straight line. They waltz around the auditorium, twisting, turning, ducking and weaving. Grand stairs slope and twist majestically from the black granite floors of the foyer up to the balconies and upper tiers of the auditorium. Audience members will find it hard to break away from these spectacular vistas and take their seats.

The auditorium proves to be a further wonder, a great grotto like a shark's mouth set under a constellation of fairylights. The space is asymmetric, but despite its unusual shape, the acoustics are perfect; the work of Harold Marshall, the veteran New Zealand acoustician. Intriguingly, he says that the strange angles of Hadid's auditorium work to produce an acoustic perfectly suited to both western and traditional Chinese opera. "There are very, very few asymmetrical auditoriums," says Marshall. "But asymmetry can be used to play with sound in very satisfying ways; it's more of a challenge tuning it, but the possibilities are greater, and this one has a beautifully balanced sound." Could it have been done in Cardiff Bay? "Of course it could."

"Next year," says Yu Zhang, the president of the opera house, "we will be putting on Chinese versions of Cats and Mamma Mia." No one can accuse the Guangzhou Opera House of elitism. In fact, the aim has been to shape a building, and an institution, open to all talents. In the backstage areas, lucky schoolchildren as well as professional musicians and dance companies will rehearse in stunning mirrored rooms set under rippling ceilings, calling to mind underwater caverns and grottoes.

Outside, the experience of strolling between and around the two "pebbles" is an extension of this architectural performance. The narrow crevice between the two structures reminds me a little of the enchanting entrance to Petra in Jordan through high walls of narrowing rocks. Local people clearly enjoy it. One boy runs up a sloping wall and tries to perform a somersault. Another seems to wonder whether he might race his bike up the opposite slope; but, with so many unsmiling security guards about, he decides, wisely, to pedal on.

An even greater performance lies above. Here, by night, the surrounding towers appear to grow out of the tops of Zaha's "pebbles", creating ever more surreal skyscapes at each turn of the head. These views can be experienced from inside the lobbies, too, lit from end to end by windows cut into the roofs and ceilings. Through these, you can see the drama of the city even while strolling through the depths of the opera house. "The idea," says Hadid, "is that the building is really a part of the city and you're aware of the city even when inside. It doesn't just go away."

A post-opera stroll

Hadid has long talked about the idea of buildings as landscapes, of shaping structures and spaces within them as if they might meander like a river. This is a beautiful idea very nearly realised in Guangzhou. If I have a criticism it is this: instead of dropping down to meet the Pearl River, the landscape of the opera house ends abruptly with further developments, including a viewing stand built for the 2010 Asian Games, and a concatenation of lumpen apartment blocks. It would have been so very special to have stepped out of a performance of Billy Budd or The Flying Dutchman and to have walked down to the river without having to think about which way to turn.

Even then, Guangzhou has to be applauded for giving Hadid and her team such a free hand with the design, when such a building has yet to make its debut in Britain. Despite building on a grand scale around the world, in the UK Hadid has just a school in Brixton, Maggie's Centre in Kirkcaldy and the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics to her credit. For, here is an architect clearly in love with the arts, and who is an artist herself. A performing one, too, as she receives the adulation of Guangzhou walking slowly and yet so proudly through a building that she had been thinking about for almost 20 years.


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October 21 2010

Space savers

The government has taken the axe to public funding of the arts, while the culture secretary says he wants American-style philanthropists to step in. But what do the donors themselves think?

Dame Vivien Duffield is drinking a cup of coffee at a desk in her office in Chelsea. Short of stature and with a merry glitter in her eye, she is a forthright kind of person in her 60s. As an heir to her financier father Charles Clore's stupendous fortune, philanthropy has been a major part of her life's work. She is a munificent giver to the arts and what she calls "Jewish social stuff". She has given masses to big institutions such as the Tate, but when we meet she is excited about a "just fabulous" Arab-Israeli dancer whose training with the Rambert Dance Company she has funded.

"That was a relatively small amount," she says. "The bigger the gift, actually, the less moved you are." Why does she give? "Well, provided one has enough to live on, and you can fly first class, and have given your children a good education, you can give away the rest. There are only so many hot meals you can eat. Especially when you are as fat as me." How much has she given away? "I'm not entirely sure," she says. "Over the years? It must be well over 100." It takes my brain a second to supply the missing word: "million".

The idea of philanthropy has never been so important politically – particularly in the arts. As the axe falls on public spending, with Arts Council England losing 30% of its budget over the next four years and national museums cut by 15% over the same period, giving by individuals has been touted as, if not a cure-all, then something that can help staunch the blood-flow. Though some cultural organisations are adept fundraisers, others have hardly given it a go: the argument is that private giving presents a barely tapped source for arts funding. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said: "If you said to me what is the one thing I could do . . . that would make a real difference to the arts, I would say it would be to help foster an American-style culture of philanthropy to the arts and culture here in the UK."

Hunt's views on philanthropy have not been universally well-received. Some argue that whereas well-heeled metropolitan institutions are likely to be able to afford skilled fundraisers, smaller and scruffier outfits in less well-off areas may be disadvantaged. Others have pointed to practical objections – US philanthropy comes from a completely different relationship between the public sphere and the arts: the US has a bred-in-the-bone culture of giving that we lack. Our system of tax benefits to donors, which Hunt has talked about reforming, is almost universally decried as bafflingly complex. Last week, Nicholas Hytner, the artistic director of the National Theatre, put it like this: "I think people don't know what tax breaks there are and I don't think the Treasury wants people to know."

Hytner also talked about something else: a persistent suspicion in the arts of wealthy donors. Crudely put, the fear is that philanthropists are more likely to want to fund what Marcus Romer, artistic director of York's Pilot Theatre, described in a recent Guardian podcast as "safe stuff" rather than "edgy stuff". Money, of course, buys power, and that goes for arts organisations as much as anything else. Hytner thinks such suspicion is misplaced. In his experience, "philanthropists want big, bold, risky and new", he says.

But what do philanthropists themselves think? Why do they give to the arts? How do they see their gifts in relation to public funding? How do they think philanthropy can be encouraged?

I meet Vernon Ellis at the London Coliseum, the home of English National Opera, which he put £5m into restoring. He is chairman of ENO's board, and made his money at management consultants Accenture, from which he recently retired as chairman. Besuited and stiffly formal of speech, he gradually unbends as he talks about his giving. Was he not tempted to ask that the Coliseum auditorium be named in his honour? "It was offered, but I didn't think it was appropriate," he says. Instead, the company commissioned a bust of him, but when he became chairman, he asked that it be taken down. "It's in a cupboard somewhere," he says.

He gives because of the "personal satisfaction" it brings; aside from the contribution to the Coliseum, he likes to help young singers, and composers. He supported, for instance, the Opera Group's production of George Benjamin's opera Into the Little Hill, which, he says, "enabled something that deserved to be done to happen". He clearly takes great pleasure in having commissioned composer Huw Watkins to write a piece for the Florestan Trio. I reflect that there is nothing bland or conservative about his taste. "It demeans people to slobber over givers," he says shortly. "What I get from it is a sense of community and affiliation." He tells me of his reluctance to talk publicly about his giving. There is an ambivalence about rich people in this country, he says: an idea that somehow you might be giving for the wrong reasons. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.


All the philanthropists I speak to – from Judith Portrait, a solicitor who has given "north of £100,000" over the last decade to the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne, to Duffield with her nine-figure giveaway, have donated out of an evidently deep personal attachment to their chosen artform or institution. Portrait gives because she is mad about ballet and opera (with some exceptions – she shudders at the mention of Wagner) and is frequently to be seen at performances, though "not in the 'posh' posh seats," she says when we meet in her agreeably tatty London offices, tapping her nose sagaciously.

Sir John Ritblat, the property magnate, funded the Ritblat Gallery at the British Library (where some of the institution's most celebrated treasures can by seen by the public) after he went on to its board during its difficult birthing period. "It was the most wonderful, exciting time," he tells me, sitting very upright at his desk in Mayfair in a dark suit with a natty red hankie in his top pocket. "I'm a modest bibliophile, and to me a library is a heavenly place."

Nicholas Berwin, a former investment banker in his 50s, tells me he has given £100,000-£150,000 to about 10 individuals over the last five years or so, usually artists or composers – "emerging artists who've needed private patronage to help them reach the next level," he says. Deeply marinated in the arts, Berwin spends several evenings a week at concerts, dance, opera or theatre. He is selling an Andy Warhol self-portrait at auction in New York this autumn, its estimate $3.5-$4.5m (£2.2m-£2.9m or 20 times what he paid for it a decade ago), and with the proceeds intends to set up a charitable trust.

"There is a combination of circumstances and factors that has led me to have capital beyond the needs of a reasonably comfortable life, and I am not interested in developing a luxurious lifestyle. I am much more interested in encouraging the arts, which are an essential part of my life," he says.

Berwin bought that Warhol from Anthony d'Offay, who was the best-known London dealer in contemporary art from the 1960s until 2002, when he closed his gallery. In 2008, D'Offay sold his collection of 750 works of modern and contemporary art to the Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland for £26.5m – the cost price of the collection. At the time, its real value was reckoned at £125m, so his deal effectively meant the work was sold to the nation at a discount of 79%.

I meet D'Offay in his office, a wood-panelled, book-lined room above a shop in Mayfair. A small Warhol portrait of Joseph Beuys faces me as we sip perfumed Chinese tea. "Giving is what makes you happy: not a chalet in Gstaad or an Aston Martin," he says. His collection, called Artist Rooms, is designed to reach as many parts of the country as possible; next year, chunks of it tour to places from Llandudno to Orkney. His gift was born of the belief that art can be a transforming force, even a form of salvation, if you are allowed to get to it young enough. "Some of us have tough parents and difficult backgrounds, and culture can come and rescue you. As an adolescent, I would have been lost without literature and museums."

D'Offay is, like all the philanthropists I met, surprisingly strident on the issue of government funding. "Public funding is the lifeblood of the institutions, the rock on which we built Artist Rooms." He adds: "I'm interested in the concerns of a government that does zero to curb the excess of the City, and on the other hand is talking about culling the great educational resources that are of crucial importance to the national prestige."

Ritblat, true to his calling as a property developer, is "enraged" by the way governments can neglect the fabric of its public museums, recalling the Victoria and Albert Museum back in the 1980s and 90s. "I used to go and see buckets and water pouring through the roof," he says. "If they had asked me for money, I would have laughed."


Duffield thinks "charity ought to be providing the icing on the cake, and the government should be providing the cake. I've always thought we should be doing the stuff government can't – the interesting new production, say – not paying the core expenses." She adds: "The return on the arts to the Treasury is huge. Cutting the arts is going to yield a relatively small amount and do much more damage."

Surprisingly, perhaps, Ellis tells me he believes it is right to worry about the balance of arts funding changing: "If the majority of money is raised from philanthropy, we'd be poorer on the artistic side," he says. The American system "does inform the conservatism of some of the choices made there".

Duffield also believes that there is more giving to be done – and better. Proportionately, she says disapprovingly, "the poor give more than the rich", and "there is a lot of untapped money. Look down those lists of donors, and most of the names are Jewish. What about the Asians, the Russians?" Portrait cocks her thumb east: "I expect my colleagues in the City to give, but they're a mean old lot." There are wealthy people, says Ellis, who "fritter away tens of thousands on a holiday" and yet are reluctant to give.

Everyone agrees that the tax system must be simplified, but no one offers an easy way to tap more money from the rich: habits die hard. Meanwhile, the economic climate is not helping. "We're doing frightfully badly. We've got to cut back and prioritise," says Duffield of her foundation. In a time of general cutbacks, there will also, she points out, be more causes. "Can I really sponsor a new ballet when your local school is closing down its library?" she asks.

Wiry, energetic and fast-talking, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, former chairman of HBOS, who resigned after the government bailout of 2008, flings himself into a sofa in his Westminster office. He is chair of Aldeburgh Music, which runs Aldeburgh festival, and he tells me he and his wife give away about a "tithe" of their income. We debate what I perceive as a problem with Hunt's thinking on philanthropy: that it is just much harder for small organisations in poor parts of the country to raise money. He disagrees. "Of course it's more difficult in Hull than Knightsbridge. But in the most far-off places there are always wealthy or high-income folk. Not enough arts organisations use their noodle, still less their shoe-leather to secure funds." It is within everyone's capabilities to "build up a list of well-off families locally, work out how they could form a syndicate to fund a production or exhibition, and hustle".

In a recession or out of it, arts organisations should learn how to sustain themselves. "My wife and I would no more give money to an organisation incapable of fundraising than jump over the moon," he says. I am still nervous about this: should our society not want to protect the people who can make art, instead of forcing them to become entrepreneurs or mini-development directors?

Still, soon people may have no choice. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.


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August 10 2010

Firefox 3 dominiert Internet Explorer 8

Der Erfolg der Open-Source Software Firefox findet kein Ende, sondern weiterhin immer mehr neue Anwender. Der Vorsprung von Firefox 3 vor dem Internet Explorer 8 nimmt weiterhin zu, derzeit beträgt er 18,6%.


Doch nicht allein die Fans von Firefox werden mehr, sondern auch die von Safari, Chrome, Opera etc.. Der Marktanteil dieser Browser liegt mittlerweile bei knapp 12%. Google hat mit Werbung für Chrome den Marktanteil innerhalb eines Jahres von 1,3% auf 3,9% ausbauen können – allerdings sollten 3,9% für den massiven Werbedruck für Chrome als eher enttäuschend bewertet werden. Ebenso schafft Safari – der ehemals schnellste Browser überhaupt – den Sprung auf die Windows-Computer nicht, sondern bleibt die bevorzugte Wahl der Apple-Nutzer.

Der Browsermarkt bleibt weiter in Bewegung – der für Jahresende angekündigte Internet Explorer 9 scheint viel versprechend, kann fast alles, fügt sich den Standards und ist schnell. Allerdings wird er nur für Windows Vista und Windows 7 zu haben sein, was die Verbreitung auf derzeit maximal 37% begrenzt. Da auch die neue Version des Firefox zum Jahresende erwartet wird, bleibt es spannend. Für Microsoft ist der Internet Explorer 9 ein sehr, sehr wichtiges Projekt – sollen doch in Zukunft immer mehr Anwendungen browser- und cloud-basiert ablaufen.
Die Kampagne zur Aktualisierung vom Internet Explorer 6 scheint zu greifen: Aktuell sind nur noch 4,1% des Browsers im Internet unterwegs – oder auch immer noch. Firefox 1 und 2 kommen zusammen auf 0,6%.

August 02 2010

When Hockney met Hogarth

The artist first worked with director John Cox on their version of The Rake's Progress 35 years ago. As it returns to Glyndebourne, the pair talk philistines, deafness and iPads

The long, oak-panelled walls of the Old Green Room at Glyndebourne are decorated with images from historic productions. Sketches of costume designs and sets, photographs of famous singers and conductors, great moments going back to the birth of the festival in 1934. David Hockney is inspecting details from the 1975 production of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, revived this year. His eye catches a fragment of a poster, distinctively illustrated in his own hand, that reads "décor by David Hockney, assited [sic] by Mo McDermott". The missing 's' has been hastily drawn in above the 'i'. "Which is how you can tell it is genuine," he laughs. "My spelling is terrible. Somewhere else I left an 'e' out of Glyndebourne. But the people here didn't seem to mind too much."

Hockney's production, directed by John Cox, has proved one of the festival's most durable successes. It opens again on Sunday, in what will be its seventh revival. Over the years, Hockney's delicate crosshatched responses to Hogarth's 18th-century series of prints have proved a potent calling card, with the production transferring all over the world – to La Scala, the Sydney opera house, Paris and New York. The extent to which Hockney in bucolic mode has become part of Glyndebourne's iconography is reinforced by his cover illustration of this year's lavish festival brochure, another project he has undertaken for a seventh time.

"Sometimes it feels like yesterday when we first had a go at it," he says of the opera. "Other times it feels like for ever ago. Time is elastic, as we know, but in the piano rehearsal yesterday it really didn't look or feel 35 years old – it gave me quite a lift to see it again. Opera productions that date tend to have a bit too much topicality in them. When John and I first spoke, I said I wanted to find a 20th-century way of doing things, but I knew we were dealing with the 18th century."

It is difficult to imagine now, but when Hockney was initially suggested for the project there was doubt as to whether it would succeed. On the opposite wall of the Old Green Room is a display of the previous Glyndebourne production of the opera, which had the satirical illustrator Osbert Lancaster in charge of the designs. Following its premiere in Venice in 1951, with a libretto by WH Auden and his friend Chester Kallman, Glyndebourne's production at the 1953 Edinburgh festival was the first British staging; it became a summer regular in Sussex.

"The haute bourgeoisie was very comfortable with Osbert's view of English society," explains Cox. "He made the work not only vivid, but vivacious. It was amusingly familiar to look at, but slightly off-kilter, as is the piece. It won its way in to the repertoire despite the slightly conservative bent of the audience. Then we came along to rip it up and start again. But thankfully we were both too young to be daunted by that prospect back then."

By 1975, Cox was regularly directing one production a year at Glyndebourne and had built a reputation away from the core repertoire. "I was a bit on the fringe, and had done things for the St Pancras festival and Wexford. I was given those pieces that were thought a bit difficult and needed a bit of grip and interpretation." Cox approached Hockney, knowing that as a young painter he had made his own version of Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, based on his first visit to New York in the early 1960s. "David seemed to know about irony and social satire. I thought he would be at ease with the intellectual and moral problems within the piece."

Hockney was already an opera fan and "knew if you wanted to do something spectacular in the theatre, then you went to opera. I'd never understood people who said they were bored by it. They must have no ears and no eyes, and I really pity them. But of course I was also a little cautious, as I didn't know this opera. My number one rule became 'Don't fuck up the music.' It's not the job of a set designer to make an opera come alive. That's the job of the composer, conductor, orchestra and singers.

"But opera is meant to have spectacle, and so I did listen very carefully to the music without knowing too much about it in a technical sense. And it became obvious that when a composer puts in a musical transformation, there is meant to be a corresponding spectacle on stage. The music tells you exactly where to locate it, if you listen hard enough. And if it's done well you get a sense of harmony to which the audience instinctively reacts."

Cox found Hockney's limited colour palette a revelation. Innocent greens in the opening scenes are offset by a splash of red on Tom Rakewell's jacket, which then "spreads and bleeds with the onset of his luxury and success". Blacks and whites go on to define his decline, fall and redemption. "The text was important to David, but his designs are inextricably linked to, and are a gift to, the music. The relationship between the eye and ear is remarkable."

The experience launched Hockney into two decades of opera. "I loved being at Glyndebourne. It's an idyllic setting, and the people tend to be young and keen. They have energy and pick things up quickly. But I love working in theatre in general. It's the only time I really collaborate, which I know means some element of compromise, but theatre people are tolerant and generous and aware of frailty – they seem to be same all over the world. I'm sure they've always been the same types. There were probably two little queens making the wigs back in Shakespeare's day."

Hockney and Cox went on to collaborate on a Glyndebourne Magic Flute and a Covent Garden Die Frau ohne Schatten. Plans for a Parsifal with Plácido Domingo in the US fell through because of Domingo's schedule and Hockney's deteriorating hearing. "I can still listen to music, but it became difficult to really judge it properly," says Hockney. "So now I mostly avoid noisy places. You'll notice that the deaf don't go to meetings about deafness. Part of the reason I've moved back to Bridlington [in east Yorkshire] is that it's pretty quiet."

But he says there have also been unexpected benefits. "I've just read the wonderful new book of Van Gogh's letters. He was aware of being able to see increasingly clearly, and as I've got deafer I've noticed that I'm using my eyes better. I'm a professional eye person, so it is some compensation."

As travel and using the phone have become more onerous, Hockney has turned to new communication technology and is now evangelical about the iPad. "I write my little letters to the Guardian on it, and I draw, and now I make films." He shows me a drawing of a chair in his Glyndebourne bedroom, which he made at six this morning. He plays it back so that the lines appear on the screen in the order in which he made them. "Now a bit of white comes in ... the light goes across ... here's a detail on the arm. It is a remarkable thing to see your own thought processes played out in this way. I'd never seen myself draw before."

His work on the iPad will feature in an exhibition in Paris later this year, and then as part of a larger Royal Academy show in 2012. "I'm creating work on these new bits of kit, but if you want to see them in any way apart from one at a time you need an old-fashioned exhibition. It's just like the fact that we monitor all the latest technology from Brid[lington], not Hollywood. It's a combination of the best of the old and the best of the new and, of course, there are all sorts of application to music and stage and everything else."

Even if Hockney and Cox no longer work together on new operas, it seems they will always have this one to return to – and, Cox says, each revival throws up something new. "The piece has always been performer-based, so you find what singers you have and do a little with their strengths. The big difference this time is that it is being conducted by [Vladimir] Jurowski. I've always looked upon it as an English opera which happened to have been written by a Russian living in America. Jurowski sees it as a Russian opera which happens to have an English theme."

The revival runs through August and, along with this year's productions of Billy Budd and Hansel and Gretel, will also be screened in cinemas and on a live relay to the 18th-century courtyard of Somerset House in London. "It's still just words and music and images coming together," says Hockney. "And so long as the words and images work with, and not against, the music, the eye and ear come together in the most remarkable way. You create something really extraordinary."

• The Rake's Progress opens at Glyndebourne on Sunday. Details: glyndebourne.com. There will be live screenings at Somerset House, London, and Picturehouse cinemas across the country on 21 August.


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July 27 2010

Rub shoulders with famous ghosts at Zeffirelli's villa – only €5,000 a night

Acclaimed director's Italian retreat on the Amalfi coast reopens as luxury hotel – three years after sale

"Leonard Bernstein, Laurence Olivier, Maria Callas, Elizabeth Taylor – it sounds like a legend, doesn't it?" mused Italy's most celebrated opera and film director, Franco Zeffirelli, as he recalled the guests who had passed through his retreat on the Amalfi coast.

For 35 years, until he sold it in 2007, Villa Tre Ville was a place that gave him "the opportunity to put together my mind with those of creative geniuses", he told the Guardian. "But I cannot enjoy it any more, and so it is right that other people should be able to enjoy it."

This month, Zeffirelli's house started a new life as a hotel, offering guests the chance to brush shoulders with the ghosts of celebrities past and present. The three-villa estate's links with the arts go back to the 1920s, when it was a meeting place for Russian cultural exiles. Sergei Diaghilev was a guest. More recent visitors to Villa Tre Ville have included Liza Minnelli and Elton John.

When Zeffirelli's biographer, the late David Sweetman, travelled out to meet him, he later recounted how: "Eventually, some ancient servant let me in, and I was shown on to this opera set. I've never seen anything like it. It seemed, just possibly, the most beautiful place on Earth."

Built on the rocky coastline near Positano, Villa Tre Ville offers sublime views over the Mediterranean. But its originality as a hotel, which will go at least some way towards justifying prices of up to ¤5,000 (£4,171) a night, is that its new owners have left it as untouched as possible. The biggest suite, named after Zeffirelli himself, is much as it was when he moved out. The bedroom furniture, inlaid with mother of pearl, was brought by the director from Syria. Guests will even be able to browse through the books he left behind.

Villa Tre Ville was bought by a local hotel owner, Giovanni Russo, who has two establishments in Sorrento. "The thinking was to alter it as little as possible", he said. "And we have made really very few changes."

The old bread oven had been turned into a shower cabin, he said. But even an eccentric greenhouse, made from part of the set for one of Zeffirelli's productions of La Traviata, had been kept and adapted for use as accommodation.

The cheapest of the 12 suites and rooms is available for a mere €1,100, including breakfast, but not VAT.

Zeffirelli said the years in which he owned the estate "were the very best years of my life, when I was climbing the steps of my career. But it could not go on forever. The time of climbing the steps of Positano is over. And I have a beautiful house in Rome where I can read and entertain my friends."

For a man of 87, he remains extraordinarily active, having just completed a cycle of operas staged at the Arena in Verona. But his work schedule has gradually diminished, and next year, he said, he was booked to direct "only three operas".

Zeffirelli's biographer recalled that getting to Villa Tre Ville was a rather less than luxurious experience. "It took hours. The taxi bill was unreal, but eventually we arrived at the top of this little winding road. And there was just a gate, and I had to go down all these bloody stairs to the villa."

So that the estate's well-heeled visitors do not face the same difficulties, the new owner of Villa Tre Ville has installed a lift to carry guests down from the road. "This was the real change we made", he said. "And it was a major work of engineering."


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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