A guide to Christmas for culture lovers

Broadcaster Andrew Graham-Dixon selects his seasonal highlights

I seem to spend so much time making TV programmes these days that I hardly ever get time to watch any, but this Christmas there are all kinds of good things to look forward to. 

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WAR HORSE AT THE PROMS

Boxing Day, BBC2

I’ve heard lots of good things about this unlikely musical performance of Michael Morpurgo’s already unlikely novel, about the experiences of a military beast of burden. Gareth Malone conducts the Military Wives’ Choir. 

KISS ME, KATE AT THE PROMS

Christmas Day, BBC2

John Wilson and his Orchestra do Cole Porter, with their usual verve and refreshing irreverence. Porter’s masterclass in great tunes and cutting lyrics is itself a revisiting of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. 

THE WINTER’S TALE

Christmas Day, BBC4

A filmed version of a fascinating reinterpretation of A Winter’s Tale by the Royal Ballet. Some critics doubted the wisdom of adapting Shakespeare for ballet, but I think it’s an interesting tactic, especially applied to the late plays, which are structured like the masques of Stuart England. 

DRAMA ON 3: ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA

Sunday 28th December, Radio 3

The Romantic essayist Charles Lamb argued that Shakespeare shouldn’t be performed but merely read. I like to think he would enjoy this radio production of Antony and Cleopatra, which is so richly written. Listening to the words with your eyes shut feels almost like having pictures painted on the inside of your mind.

CARLOS ACOSTA’S CUBAN NIGHT

Boxing Day, BBC4

An evening celebrating Cuban contemporary dance. I’ll be fascinated to see how the produc- ers set about catching the energy of so many different forms of modern dance and bringing it to a television audience.

OPERA ON 3: LIVE FROM THE MET

Saturday 20th December, Radio 3

I’m making a date for Edo de Waart conducting The Marriage of Figaro with Erwin Schrott in the title role: it’s the operatic essence of good cheer.

NICOLA BENEDETTI

Christmas Day, Radio 2

If the young violinist is half as good a presenter as she is a player, then her insider’s guide to some of her favourite pieces should make for a fascinating two hours.

WIRELESS NIGHTS

Christmas Day, Radio 4

Jarvis Cocker, tales of insomnia and nocturnal apparitions, interspersed with music by Bach, Rachmaninov and others. It all sounds so peculiarly Gothic that I couldn’t possibly miss it.

WAR AND PEACE

New Year’s Day, Radio 4

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If anyone can make this ten-hour production compelling it’s John Hurt, though how they’ll tackle the chaos of war as described by Tolstoy I can’t imagine.