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REVIEW: Last Night of the Proms Royal Albert Hall

PUBLISHED: 14:59 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:25 07 September 2010

Two star rating Apart from hand-wrung, Hampstead-liberal reservations about waving flags, what do you say about the Last Night Of The Proms? More like a national indulgence than a concert, it is

Last Night of the Proms

Royal Albert Hall

South Kensington

Two star rating

Apart from hand-wrung, Hampstead-liberal reservations about waving flags, what do you say about the Last Night Of The Proms? More like a national indulgence than a concert, it is impervious to criticism, and attacks on its familiar jamboree of Pomp and Circumstance and patriotic songs read snottily. You poke it at your peril.

But by any standards, this year's Last Night was a disappointment that failed to reflect the strengths of an otherwise ambitious, innovative, well-attended season.

Roger Norrington, lately the tired, embarrassed-looking judge of TV's vacuously silly Maestro series, claimed the podium and conducted in a tired, embarrassed-looking way - the promised controversy over his intention to play Elgar minus the vibrato turning out to be nothing much.

The specially commissioned piece designed to link the Albert Hall with open-air events around the UK was a shambles, with the outside contributions fed uncertainly into the Albert Hall through speakers that sounded like a job lot from Woolworths. We were told the words would be a "surprise" and they remain so - I couldn't understand a single one of them.

And sad to report, the biggest disappointment was Bryn Terfel, who we all know as a large, loveable character with a voice to match - though on Saturday there was more character than voice.

The broadcast may have sounded different, courtesy of microphones. But in the hall, that voice that used to be so capacious and magnificent was struggling to be heard and close to breaking.

It gives me no pleasure to say so - because I've enjoyed Terfel as much as anyone over the years - but he is someone who has sung too much, too riskily; and judging by last Saturday, it's left him damaged. What he needs - and if he's sensible he'll do it quickly - is a rest. Or else he'll end up with a short career.

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