Rupert Christiansen

Rupert Christiansen is the author of Romantic Affinities and of a biography of Maria Callas. His most recent publication is The Grand Obsession, an anthology of writing on opera.


Distaste for Leavis

11 October 1990

A footnote to Richard Wilson’s heated letter about F.R. Leavis’s ‘homophobia’ (Letters, 6 December): I remember Mrs Leavis pronouncing in a supervision that ‘actors, like homosexuals, were people to feel sorry for: victims of arrested development.’ But there were several representatives of both categories of person in the couple’s circle, and I don’t think that the prejudice – for...

Cooking it up

Rupert Christiansen, 19 January 1989

Brecht thought opera kulinarisch, a cooked-up business – a view that has been widely quoted without exerting much influence. Opera still dominates the kitchen of the performing arts in the Western world, imperiously consuming resources and insisting that it be kept properly dusted and aired. Its pretensions have not been reduced by the exigencies of Modernism, by media technology, or by the brutalities of recent history. It has never deigned to truck with materialist or naturalist riff-raff, and sees little reason to start doing so. It manages to live comfortably off the capital of its glorious past, but finds new investment unremunerative: last season Covent Garden presented only one opera written since the outbreak of the First World War, and the number of new works since 1945 which have survived in the international repertory can be counted on the fingers of one hand. What is it in our social psychology that feels obliged, or inclined, to maintain this chronically demanding, persistent invalid on its immensely cumbersome life-support system? Why should we believe that a red velvet and gold-leaf arena of musical entertainment is an essential symbol of our cultural respectability?


Peter Swaab, 20 April 1989

Wordsworth’s poetry has been able to animate critical writing, relevantly, from several different points of view. Narratologists have discussed the gaps in his storytelling and the...

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