What to see in 2016: our critics’ guide to the biggest cultural events

What to see in 2016: our critics’ guide to the biggest cultural events

Film
With Jennier Lawrence (Joy) and Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) looking like Oscar contenders, other heavyweight performances landing in the awards ring this month include Michael B Jordan as a boxer in the Rocky spin-off Creed.

It has been a big success at the American box office and comes out here on Jan 15, a mere week after Quentin Tarantino’s 70mm western The Hateful Eight. But if you’re looking out for the best actor performance, it’s hotly tipped to be Leonardo DiCaprio fighting a bear in the survivalist shocker The Revenant (Jan 15), a role that has earned him a Golden Globes nomination. Perhaps the major female performance of the year is inRoom (Jan 15), starring Brie Larson in the adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel about a woman kept prisoner along with her child (a moving performance by Jacob Tremblay), by a psychopath.

After the Oscar-release punch-up there is usually a lull, filled here by an adaptation of the wartime Home Guard television comedy, Dad’s Army, with stars including Bill Nighy and Toby Jones (Feb 5). More laughs are likely to come a week later from the much-anticipated male fashionista farce Zoolander 2 with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, along with Benedict Cumberbatch as a s/he model. The rib-tickling February ends on the 26th with the release of Hail, Caesar !, the Coen brothers’ latest, starring Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson and George Clooney in full armour and sandals.

March is a month filled with deliciously terrifying prospects, including Ben Wheatley’s coolly wicked adaptation of JG Ballard’sHigh-Rise with Tom Hiddleston (Mar 18) and the American Puritan horror The Witch, out on March 11. That same week sees the release of Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, a very adult stop-motion animation.

The first big superhero smash of the year is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Mar 25) with Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill fighting in tights, and coming soon after, on April 29, is Captain America: Civil War 3D and the latest X-Men Apocalypse 3D on May 19. Thanks for visiting. Just before we carry on I needed to say thanks to for their continued assistance and the support of their local community. Having a support team like this means a lot to us as we continue to grow our public blog.

The treasures flung up by film festivals are not yet listed, but the rest of the year contains some sure-fire hits: the all-girl Ghostbusters (Jul 15), Bridget Jones’s Baby (Sept 16) and the bestselling novel adaptation The Girl on the Train (Oct 7), as well as a couple of money-spinning spin-offs — one from the Harry Potter universe,Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Nov 18) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dec 16).
Kate Muir


Visual art

Everything in the garden is lovely, especially in the case of the first big show of 2016: the Royal Academy’s Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse (Jan 30 to Apr 20, 020 7300 8000). If you prefer grand histrionics to horticultural peace, the arts year kicks off dramatically with the National Gallery’s Delacroix and the Rise of Modern Art (Feb 17 to May 22, 020 7747 2885). If your taste takes in both, Tate Modern’s retrospective of the pioneering modernist Georgia O’Keeffe (Jul 6 to Oct 30, 020 7887 8888) will suit.

Painting plays a persuasive role this year. Major individuals come into focus in Tate Liverpool’s Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms (May 18 to Sept 18, 0151 702 7400), the Holburne’s Stubbs and the Wild(Jun 25 to Oct 2, 01225 388569) — one of several impressive shows with which this West Country museum celebrates its centenary — the Royal Academy’s David Hockney RA: 79 Portraits and 2 Still Lifes(Jul 2 to Oct 2) and Tate Britain’s major autumn survey of the career of Paul Nash (Oct 26 to Mar 5, 020 7887 8888).

There are also broader examinations of painterly influence. In the spring, following an exquisite Courtauld Gallery show of drawings,Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection (Feb 18 to May 8, 020 7848 2526), the V&A takes a look at the continuing legacy of this favourite Florentine in Botticelli Reimagined (Mar 5 to Jul 3, 020 7942 2000), while the RA indulges in a glorious examination of the Venetian Renaissance in In the Age of Giorgione(Mar 12 to Jun 5). Then, with the summer, arrives the NG’s spectacular Painters’ Paintings: From Van Dyck to Freud (Jun 22 to Sept 4). In autumn, the energy of postwar America will enliven a major RA survey Abstract Expressionism (Sept 24 to Jan 2).

For art lovers who like to travel further back in time, the Fitzwilliam Museum opens its bicentenary year with Death on the Nile: Uncovering the Afterlife of Ancient Egypt (Feb 23 to May 22, 01223 332900). This is succeeded by the British Museum spectacularSunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds (May 19 to Nov 27, 020 7323 8299), which reveals the secrets of two submerged ancient cities. The Ashmolean also descends into the deep with Storms, War and Shipwrecks: Treasures from the Sicilian Seas (Jun 21 to Sept 25, 01865 278000) which crosses over with another BM show, Sicily: culture and conquest (Apr 21 to Aug 14).

Of more recent work, Tate Modern looks at the role of the lens in documenting live performances with Performing for the Camera(Feb 18 to Jun 12). The National Portrait Gallery commemorates 100 years of glamour with Vogue 100: A Century of Style (Feb 11 to May 22, 020 7306 0055) and Tate Britain brings together work by Keith Arnatt, Michael Craig-Martin and Richard Long, among others, for a survey of Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979 (Apr 12 to Aug 29).

If, however, you’re still after that bucolic dream of peace, then this year brings the launch of an imaginative initiative. Idle Women, an organisation focusing on contemporary art by women, takes to the waterways of the northwest in a converted narrowboat-cum-arts-venue (idlewomen.org).
Rachel Campbell-Johnston


Theatre

Two words dominate the stage in 2016: Potter and Shakespeare. JK Rowling, always inventive, has decided that her eighth Harry Potter story, which fast-forwards 19 years to find Harry now a dad of three, is going to be a play, presented in two parts, to be seen on the same day or on consecutive nights. This is easier said than done with the tickets selling out as soon as they were released.

Tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are bound to become status objects in themselves. If you manage to get one, it starts previewing at the Palace Theatre, London, in late May though press night isn’t until July 30 (harrypottertheplay.com).

It’s the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death and among the many events is what promises to be a wonderful Romeo and Juliet, directed by Kenneth Branagh, at the Garrick (from May 12, 0330 3334811). Another notable is the RSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation — an extravaganza with our favourite Shakespeare play performed by professional and amateur actors. It starts in Stratford on February 17, then tours (01789 403493).

It will be a big year for musicals, with Glenn Close making her West End debut as Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard (from Apr 4 at the London Coliseum, 020 7845 9300). Later, in the autumn, there is more Lloyd Webber as School of Rock, just opened on Broadway, comes to the West End. Booking at the Palladium (0844 4124655) is not yet open.

Other musical highlights include Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the National Theatre with Sharon D Clarke playing the Chicago blues legend (from Jan 26 at the Lyttelton, 020 7452 3000), and Beyond the Fence, composed by computer, is at the Arts Theatre from February 26 (020 7836 8463).

There is a perfect match with The Nap at the Crucible in Sheffield, the home of snooker and also of this new Richard Bean comedy thriller about you know what (0114 249 6000, from Mar 10). Others of note include Uncle Vanya at the Almeida directed by man of the moment Robert Icke — whose Oresteia there and then at Trafalgar Studios was such a hit last year — from February 5 (020 7359 4404), while the Old Vic has Ibsen’s The Master Builder starring Ralph Fiennes from January 23 (0844 8717628). Perhaps the most glamorous show of all will be Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Pixie Lott as Truman Capote’s quicksilver character, Holly Golightly. It starts on June 29 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (020 7930 8800).
Ann Treneman


Literature

Publishers take things slowly. The first big-name author out of the blocks in 2016 is Julian Barnes. His The Noise of Time (Jonathan Cape) is published on January 28. It’s a slim, elegant tale about Shostakovich and his fall from official favour when his opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is declared unSoviet. Though only 180 pages long, you get a vivid sense of the perils — physical, political, personal and moral — faced by artists in the Soviet Union.

A clutch of other Booker prizewinners have books out: look out forThe High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel (Canongate), andMothering Sunday by Graham Swift (Scribner), both out in February, Selection Day by Aravind Adiga (May, Picador) andNapoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally (May, Sceptre).

Too many male authors? Then you can turn to Rose Tremain’s The Gustav Sonata (May, Chatto), My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (Feb, Viking), The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047by Lionel Shriver (May, Borough) and Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (May, Borough). Those who are gripped by Karl Ove Knausgaard’s mundane, detailed “novelised” descriptions of his own life will be relieved that Some Rain Must Fall, volume five of My Struggle, is on its way, too (Mar, Harvill Secker). Each to their own.

Publishers have not been slow in noticing that it’s the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and Hogarth has commissioned topnotch novelists to reimagine his plays. First out is Howard Jacobson’s Shylock is My Name: The Merchant of Venice Retold(Feb), followed by Vinegar Girl, Anne Tyler’s retelling of Taming of the Shrew (Jun) and Margaret Atwood’s take on The Tempest (Oct). Boris Johnson’s biography of the Bard, Shakespeare, will be published in October by Hodder & Stoughton.

On the nonfiction front, probably the most explosive book of the year will be Tom Bower’s Broken Vows — Tony Blair: The Tragedy of Power (Mar, Faber). Bower has a reputation for unearthing unwelcome truths. The Times’s David Aaronovitch’s Party Animals : My Family and Other Communists (Jan, Jonathan Cape) is a memoir-cum-social history about growing up in a devout Communist household in the Cold War years; it’s an odd experience entering the parallel universe of the fellow traveller.

The grand interrogator Jeremy Paxman’s as yet untitled memoirs are likely to be a bestseller (Oct, William Collins), as will be John Le Carré’s memoirs, The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories From My Life (Sept, Viking). The smartest intellectual blockbuster of the year might well turn out to be Yuval Noah Harari’s follow-up to his surprise hitSapiens. Homo Deus (Sept, Harvill Secker) is billed as a “history of the future of the human species”.
Robbie Millen


Comedy

The biggest comedy event of 2016 should have been the biggest comedy event of 2015: Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s 25th anniversary tour, which was delayed after Mortimer had a triple heart bypass. Freshly surgically enhanced, they now hope to get The Poignant Moments underway on January 30 (to Feb 16, ticketmaster.co.uk and other ticket sites). Those who enjoy the duo’s surreal antics will also find excellent company in Seymour Mace, whose Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominated show Niche as F***comes to Soho Theatre (Jan 5 to 16, 020 7478 0100), complete with an animal soap opera.

In the same month, two heavyweights land for London residencies: Billy Connolly is at the Eventim Apollo with High Horse (Jan 7 to Feb 6, 0844 2491000), and Eddie Izzard is at Palace Theatre with a “reloaded” version of his 2013 show Force Majeure (Jan 18 to Feb 13, 0844 4124656). Nina Conti also earns a West End run for the fabulous improvised ventriloquism in In Your Face at the Criterion (Feb 25 to Mar 12, 0844 8471778).

On the most creative side of the comedy spectrum, London-based producers the Invisible Dot celebrate their seventh birthday by filling Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo with stars including Harry Hill (Jan 25, 0844 2494300) before extending their innovative programming outside the capital. Sara Pascoe hits the road with Animal, an engaging look at female sexual evolution (May 6 to Jun 30,sarapascoe.com). Romesh Ranganathan, co-host of The Apprentice: You’re Fired, provides exquisitely grumpy fare in Irrational (Feb 4 to Jun 4, romeshranganathan.co.uk). Sublime storytellers Max & Ivan (as seen on W1A) also tour their inventive apocalyptical tale The End(22 Apr to Jun 5, maxandivan.com).

There are debut solo tours from two comedy veterans: Rory McGrath Remembers (. . . Or Is It Forgets?) runs from February 4 to April 23 (socomedy.co.uk) and Debra Stephenson mounts a one-woman comedy variety show in Night of One Hundred Voices (Feb 21 to Apr 30, socomedy.co.uk).

The biggest hitters are also assembling. Russell Kane, an excellently crowd-pleasing jester, discusses growing up in Right Man, Wrong Age (Feb 25 to Jun 11, russellkane.co.uk). Fellow Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Al Murray The Pub Landlord shares more beer-swilling Brit wisdom in Let’s Go Backwards Together (Sept 9 to Nov 26, thepublandlord.com). Plus, Jimmy Carr launches a Best Of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits Tour that will stretch almost to Christmas 2017 (May 17 to Nov 28 2017, jimmycarr.com). Which is good news for fans of acerbic one-liners, and the tax man.
Alex Hardy


Pop/rock

Not fleet-footed enough to strike gold in the mad scramble for Adele tickets (from Mar 15, O2 Arena, London, 020 8463 2000, touring)? Don’t despair. Plenty of secondary ticketing sites are offering seats at rather high prices, so if you simply must see the woman Noel Gallagher claims makes “music for grannies”, try theticketlink.com. Alternatively, brave the mud at Glastonbury Festival (Jun 24-26, 0115 896 0073) where she is rumoured to be headlining alongside Muse and Coldplay. If all that sounds like too much hard work, stay in and enjoy David Bowie’s album Blackstar (Jan 8, RCA), recorded with a team of New York jazz musicians and continuing Bowie’s remarkable late-career forays into strange new worlds, or the rather less challenging Wonderful Crazy Night by Elton John (Feb 5, Virgin).

While the British music industry puts its combined might into turning vaguely experimental singer-songwriter and Brit Awards Critics’ Choice Jack Garratt into a bona-fide star with his debut album Phase (Feb 19, Virgin), don’t overlook the more characterfulNew View (Jan 22, Frenchkiss) by New York’s Eleanor Friedberger. How can you resist a perky indie rock tune called He Didn’t Mention His Mother? Meanwhile, the intense art-rock of Savages on Adore Life (Jan 22, Matador) and the doomed grandeur of the re-formed Suede on Night Thoughts (Jan 22, Unassigned), the latter a film as well as an album, demonstrate the continuing creativity of British alternative music. You can catch also Suede at the Forum in London (020 7428 4080) on February 12.

In their heyday, symphonic rockers ELO had entire spaceships landing on stage. Let’s hope Jeff Lynne’s ELO pulls off a similar feat now that Lynne is back in the live arena after decades as a studio-bound producer (Apr 5, Liverpool Echo Arena, 0844 8000400, then touring). Rihanna brings pure pop glamour with a heavy dose of sex appeal (Jun 14, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, 0844 8736500, then touring), Australian psychedelic jokers King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (Feb 15, Gorilla, Manchester, 0161 4070301, then touring) are as fun and as silly as their name suggests, and for vaguely emotional stadium-filling bombast there’s always Coldplay (Jun 4, Etihad Stadium, Manchester, 0161 4441894, then touring).

You can enjoy the festival experience without the horrors of soggy camping, apocalyptic toilets and hippy singalongs at four in the morning by heading to British Summertime (0844 8240300): Florence + The Machine (Jul 2), Mumford & Sons (Jul 8) and Take That (Jul 9) all headline a day of pop in Hyde Park. But if you’re feeling outward bound, you can’t go wrong with Green Man (Aug 18-21, greenman.net) in the Brecon Beacons or End of the Road (Sept 2-4, endoftheroadfestival.com) in Dorset. Both have laid-back atmospheres, beautiful settings and always interesting music (no announcements yet but expect credible indie rock and a touch of folk). And when it rains? Just escape into the real ale tent and steam away with the best of them.
Will Hodgkinson


Dance

The biggest and, presumably, biggest budget offering of 2016 will be the new Frankenstein for Covent Garden (opens May 4, 020 7304 4000). Liam Scarlett, with his first full-length narrative ballet for the main stage of the Royal Opera House, is mining the themes of isolation and the need for acceptance in Mary Shelley’s iconic gothic tale, and setting his choreography to a commissioned score by Lowell Liebermann. Let’s hope Scarlett can erase the memory of Wayne Eagling’s embarrassing attempt at the same thing for the Royal Ballet in 1985.

Another iconic novel is adapted for the dance stage when Cathy Marston marks the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth with a new Jane Eyre for Northern Ballet. It opens at Cast in Doncaster (May 19-21, 01302 303959) before a UK tour. The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death is marked in a big way at Birmingham Royal Ballet. It starts with Ashton’s The Dream (Feb 17-20, Birmingham Hippodrome, 0844 3385000) and culminates at the same venue with The Taming of the Shrew (June 16-18) and a new triple bill that includes Limon’s Othello rewrite, The Moor’s Pavane(Jun 22-25).

For innovation, look no further than English National Ballet. At Sadler’s Wells (Apr 13-16, 020 7863 8000) it presents She Said, a triple bill of new work by female choreographers: Aszure Barton, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Yabin Wang constitute a fascinating line-up. In the autumn, ENB unveils Akram Khan’s new Giselle(Palace Theatre, Manchester Sept 27-Oct 1, then touring) — I can’t wait to see what he does with that one.

Also thinking outside the box is Rambert which, in collaboration with Garsington Opera, will present a new dance staging of Haydn’s oratorio The Creation (Jul 14-17, 0330 001 4729). Inspired by the book of Genesis and Milton’s Paradise Lost, Mark Baldwin’s staging will feature the full Rambert company joined on stage by the singers Neal Davies, James Gilchrist and Sarah Tynan.

Scottish Ballet is looking forward to a new Swan Lake from David Dawson which opens at Theatre Royal, Glasgow (Apr 19-23, 0844 8717627) and tours to June 4. No surprise that Swan Lake is also on the menu when the Bolshoi Ballet takes up residence at the Royal Opera House for a summer season (Jul 25-Aug 13, 020 7304 4000). The season kicks off with Don Quixote. Scheduled to guest with the company is the Russian sensation (and Royal Ballet star) Natalia Osipova, who will also front her own evening of contemporary dance at Sadler’s Wells (Jun 29-Jul 3).
Debra Craine


TV

In drama the year starts with big bangs — battalion and bedroom — in Andrew Davies’s War and Peace (BBC One, starts tomorrow), its 1,200 pages whittled down into six instalments. The channel returns to Russian themes later in the year for Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent; John Le Carré’s first post-cold war novel, The Night Manager, starring Tom Hiddleston, precedes it in February (BBC One). BBC Two goes back to the Forties for its intelligence dramaClose to the Enemy. In contrast, Guy Hibbert’s One Child (BBC Two) is a domestic drama about adoption. Stand by too for more of The Missing, Line of Duty, Poldark and Happy Valley.

ITV’s response is the eight-week Victoria. Jenna “Clara” Coleman, as the monarch who long reigned over us, will be looking for the autumn Sunday slot vacated by Downton Abbey. That show’s presiding genius, Julian Fellowes, has now adapted Trollope’s Doctor Thorne for the network, but it is another period drama, Jericho, starring the original Midwife Jessica Raine, that leads the way in January, followed by a 13-part Beowulf, another attempt by British TV to do Game of Thrones.

Channel 4’s Indian Summers is back for a second run early in the year, and, later, Born to Kill, an “edge of the seat” exploration of a teenage psychopath. Sky dramas include Stan Lee’s Lucky Man next month and, in March, a big-twist thriller, The Five, by another American bestseller, Harlan Coben. The new kids on the block continue to up their game: Netflix with Peter Morgan’s The Crown, about the life of our own dear queen, and Amazon with more of the excellent Ripper Street and the British-made The Collection on the post-war haute couture scene in Paris.

Drama is TV’s new rock ’n’ roll but comedy still rocks. Mid-year, BBC One revives old sitcoms with new casts in a Landmark Comedy season but expect laughs and tears when F resh Meat (C4) returns for a final term this spring. Morning Has Broken (C4) is a JuliaHunderby Davis vehicle this spring about a failing daytime TV host — a rival, perhaps to Alan Partridge, who returns for more Mid Morning Matters (Sky Atlantic). Helena Bonham Carter, no less, will star in Nick Hornby’s Love, Nina (BBC One), a comedy-drama about an out-of-her-depth nanny in literati London.

And finally, the news wars hot up. The young pretender Tom Bradby gets a new set for his ITV News at Ten while Huw Edwards wins an extra ten minutes for its BBC namesake. Let battle commence.
Andrew Billen


Opera

Every year there are fears that British opera is going down the pan. Those concerns might be literally born out by Opera North and the Royal Opera’s co-production, Pleasure, in which Lesley Garrett plays a toilet attendant in a gay club. If you’ll excuse the pun, however, the opera’s 27-year-old composer, Mark Simpson, is already flushed with success from his superb oratorio The Immortal, so Pleasure is worth seeking out, whether in Leeds (Howard Assembly Room, from Apr 28), or on tour to Liverpool and eventually the Lyric, Hammersmith (operanorth.co.uk).

Opera North has grander fare to offer as well. For his swansong at the company, its acclaimed music director Richard Farnes is burning up the whole world — not bad for a leaving party. He’ll have finished this arson when the last Götterdämmerung of Opera North’s sixRing cycles concludes in “concert stagings” conceived by Peter Mumford. The London Ring is sold out, but for £50 for all four operas — the bargain of the year? — you can book in Leeds, Nottingham or Salford (from Apr 23).

At Covent Garden, Bryn Terfel is the tortured Tsar in Richard Jones’s new production of Boris Godunov (from Mar 14, 020 7304 4000). For comic relief at a bleak time of the year, the Royal Opera also welcomes back Mark Elder to conduct Chabrier’s very silly L’Etoile(from Feb 1). It has a character called King Ouf the First, which is reason enough to book. Meanwhile, English National Opera’s monarch to watch will be the titular Pharaoh Akhnaten, who comes out of his sarcophagus for Phelim McDermott’s new production of Philip Glass’s wonderful and weird 1984 opera (from Mar 4, 020 7845 9300). The other unmissable highlight at the Coliseum isTristan and Isolde (from June 9), with designs by Anish Kapoor, conducted by Edward Gardner and starring Stuart Skelton as Tristan.

Elsewhere in the UK, lovers of baroque should head to Scotland for a new Ariodante with a vibrant young cast, starting in Glasgow on February 16 (0844 8717647). Welsh National Opera is marrying Figaro and Susanna (The Marriage of Figaro, touring from Feb 18, wno.org.uk) but then telling us what happened next in Elena Langer’s new Figaro gets a Divorce (from Feb 21). If you are saving your pennies for just one or two summer festivals, choose Berlioz’sBéatrice et Bénédict, which should be catnip for director Laurent Pelly and conductor Robin Ticciati (Glyndebourne, from Jul 23, 01273 815000) and Cecilia Bartoli in Bellini’s Norma, coming to the Edinburgh Festival in August (Festival Theatre, 0131 473 2000).
Neil Fisher


Classical

Not a single piece of music inspired by Shakespeare survives from Shakespeare’s day, but in the four centuries since his death plenty of composers have plunged Bard-wards. Many of them are rounded up in the London Philharmonic’s extensive Shakespeare400 concert series at the Festival Hall (Feb 3 to Apr 23, 020 7960 4200), culminating in a gala curated and led by Simon Callow. Note also the BBC Philharmonic’s bright idea of commissioning five young Manchester composers each to write an eight-minute orchestral piece inspired by a different Shakespeare sonnet, premiered together at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (Apr 23, 0161 907 9000).

Back in London, Gustavo Dudamel, Daniel Barenboim (marking the 60th anniversary of his Southbank debut) and the Simón Bolívar Orchestra return to the Festival Hall (Jan 14-17) against a background of political change in Venezuela and growing scepticism about El Sistema. It will be interesting to see whether the Venezuelans still have the same impact.

Another big return to London is Simon Rattle’s: his official appointment with the London Symphony Orchestra doesn’t start until September 2017, but he conducts the LSO seven times at the Barbican in 2016, starting with a semi-staged performance of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande starring his wife, the mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena (Jan 9-10, 020 7638 8891). Kozena also has her own Wigmore Hall residency, one concert featuring Rattle as pianist (Jan 29, 020 7935 2141). The Wigmore is also hosting a week-long festival of Irish culture to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising (Apr 19-24).

Outside London, there’s much interest in the world premiere of a piano concerto by Ludovico Einaudi in a Royal Liverpool Philharmonic programme that also includes the British premiere of his Wetlands (Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Mar 10-11, 0151 709 3789). Later in the spring, the Hallé Orchestra and Mark Elder embark on a Dvorák season at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester (May 5-21), culminating in a rare performance of his grand oratorioSaint Ludmilla, furnished with a new English translation by David Pountney.

Also in Manchester, note the premiere of The Passion, a joint production by the Sixteen choir and Streetwise Opera, directed by Penny Woolcock and with music by James MacMillan, that will involve people who have experienced homelessness alongside professional performers at Campfield Market (Mar 25-26, 0161 200 1500). Finally, note the Scottish Ensemble’s excellent South American chamber programme with the controversial Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, which will be touring from March 8 to 15 (scottishensemble.co.uk).
Richard Morrison


Radio/podcasts

Here’s a safe prediction: radio in 2016 will be more or less exactly the same as in 2015. That’s the point, isn’t it? Those reassuring voices in a restless world: Chris Evans, John Humphrys, Jenni Murray . . . All those broadcasters from misty memory still plying their trade: Tony Blackburn, Bob Harris — even David “Kid” Jensen is out there somewhere. And that’s what we want; mountains may crumble but there’s always Nicholas Parsons on Just a Minute (back Feb 22 on Radio 4).

On Radio 2, Barry Humphries presents Barry’s Forgotten Musical Masterpieces, playing favourite 78rpm and classical recordings for three programmes (from Jan 13). On March 7, a three-part series starts on the Pet Shop Boys. Over on Radio 3, the station will gently gear up for the 70th anniversary in autumn of the birth of Third Programme, as the station was long known.

However, where the audio landscape is changing dramatically — and unpredictably — is in the podcast boom. Serial, the spin-off fromThis American Life downloaded 100 million times, ushered in a new phenomenon of “binge listening”. It remains to be seen whether series two, about a US soldier captured by the Taliban in 2009, which began last month, will have the same impact but work is already under way on series three.

Perhaps because the BBC so dominates here (90 million podcasts of Radio 4 programmes alone were downloaded between January and May last year), Britain produces few independent podcasts near the standard of Serial or Love + Radio or 99% Invisible. However, there’s good news for fans of the terrific comedy Wooden Overcoats, about rival funeral directors: a second series is planned just as soon as funds have been raised. And given that all the kit you need to make a podcast is a smartphone and a half-decent idea, the next break-out hit could be yours.

Originally posted 2015-12-18 10:22:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter