30 MARCH 1996, Page 25

Don't sack Rupert

Sir: Rupert Christiansen's Diary (23 March) refers to a sweating, debilitating nervous condition brought on by listening to 0-level Performances of opera. There was nothing remotely 0-level about Semele, though; both production and singing were of scholarship standard. But please don't sack him as your critic; he writes brilliantly, and he's spot on about Handel as a dramatist: no genius here, more a purveyor of great melodies for an audience who gossiped, drank, sucked ice-creams and copulated through the show. Nowadays we are expect- ed to sit intently through four hours of da capo arias and some of us, unable to satisfy our baser instincts, find performances of Alcina and Ariodante just a little tedious.

William Thuillier

180 New Bond Street, London W1