Sunday 23 October 2016

Something to sing about in Pappano musical film

John Boland

Published 05/07/2015 | 02:30

Jeff Koons
Jeff Koons

Conductor Antonio Pappano, who looks quintessentially Italian but was actually born in Essex, is a brilliant television communicator and in the first instalment of Pappano's Classical Voices (BBC4) he made the art of singing winningly accessible to a wide audience.

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He's also an excellent interviewer, more interested in what his subjects have to say than in the sound of his own voice, and in this opening programme, which concerned the history and art of the soprano, he elicited fascinating comments from such current performers as Anna Netrebko, Carolyn Sampson and Anna Siminska.

There were engrossing insights, too, into the art of such famous divas as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland - the latter confessing in an archive chat that she was unsure whether her nickname, La Stupenda, alluded to her sound or her considerable size.

Equally absorbing was Pappano's consideration of the physical attributes required by a great singer, and I look forward to tomorrow's night second episode, which deals with tenors.

I'd looked forward also to the Arena profile of filmmaker Nicholas Roeg (BBC4), though a few dissenting voices would have enlightened this hagiographic tribute to a director who was responsible for such self-consciously arty clunkers as Bad Timing, Insignificance, Eureka and The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Still, he did making the haunting Walkabout and the even finer Don't Look Now, though that movie's female star, Julie Christie, was being a teensy bit over-the-top in deeming Roeg "one of the few visionary people in the world".

Certainly there was more fun to be had from the Imagine profile of Jeff Koons (BBC1), which caused me to temper the derision I've always felt for this gaudiest of pop artists.

There are people who loathe Koons's celebration of ordinary objects (vacuum cleaners, giant toys and balloon dogs), not to mention his blatant his self-infatuation, but the man himself was an articulate and engaging defender of his work and the film was very diverting.

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