Two young girls are snatched off a city street; the crime ripples through the wider community. A story that might have been set anywhere, but Julia Phillips sets hers in Kamchatka, one of the remoter parts of Russia’s remote Far East.
In 2005, on the 600th anniversary of Chinese admiral’s Zheng He’s first voyage, 19-year old Mwamaka Sharifu was plucked from Kenya’s Pate island and granted a scholarship to study in China. She was, it was said, the descendant of a shipwrecked sailor from one of Zheng He’s fleets.
I’ve always found the term “chapbook” off-putting. You’d think poets, being poets, could come up with a better word for what is a shorter-than-normal collection, as prose people did with “novella”.
The harpsichord may be the quintessential European instrument, each touch of the keys evoking powered wigs and sedan chairs. It never really went global as did the piano or violin. One might not therefore expect someone like Tehran-born Mahan Esfahani to be one of the instrument’s premier modern exponents.
One can make a case for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Don Giovanni being the best opera ever written. There is Mozart’s inimitable music, of course, but also the story, at once irrepressible and and morally-nuanced, perky yet profound. Yet, with two 90-minute acts, it can sometimes drag. But not on this opening night.
There is a longish section in Grace E Lavery’s Quaint, Exquisite: Victorian Aesthetics and the Idea of Japan on Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado and which asks, among other things, whether the operetta is really about Japan. Spoiler alert: it might be, or might not be, depending whom you ask and exactly what you ask.
Kerry Brown has earned a reputation as one of the most prolific and yet reasonable commentators on China. In The Future of UK-China Relations, he turns his eye on his home country.