These lectures are normally presented to members of The Arts Society and are fully illustrated with audio and video materials.   A PDF version is downloadable here.

   CORONAVIRUS SITUATION - many of these lectures can be presented online   

         TANTRUMS & TIARAS        

This lecture is a look at backstage life at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and the pressures faced by performers, be they singer, dancer, conductor or musician.  We see how the building copes with the demands of modern productions and examine audience expectations both inside the theatre and out. We also look at some of the highs and try to understand some of the lows that have been the fortune of this world-class performing venue over the years.

This lecture can expand into a two-part Study Day.


A wide-ranging exploration of the music chosen by ballet choreographers through the years, proving that the right composition with the addition of the right moves and the right designs can create modern masterpieces and timeless classics.  We move from the grandness of Imperial Russia with the creation of Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and other established and popular works through to the current modern repertoire of the Royal Ballet, exploring the challenges met by both composers and choreographers.

This lecture can expand into a two-part Study Day

        THEY MAKE NO NOISE       

What is it that conductors do that makes orchestras respond in so many different ways?  Is it a good baton technique?  A strong personality?   The way they look?  Why are there relatively few women found on the podium?   And why are the conductors paid so much more than anyone else on the concert platform?  Drawing on history and his own musical experiences from well over six thousand performances and recordings, Nigel seeks out some answers.  This lecture contains some rare video footage of conductors in rehearsal and performance.

This lecture can combine with "Tantrums & Tiaras" for a two or three part Study Day

        PERCUSSION USE & ABUSE          

From calling ancient armies to battle to signalling the audience to stand for the National Anthem, drums and percussion have been a part of history well over and above their musical contributions.  Often the icing on the cake and alas sometimes the bottom of the dustbin, we explore how the design, sound and awareness of percussion instruments and the demands of modern composers have developed almost out of all recognition in the last hundred years.    In addition to performance clips, this lecture contains rare video footage from the orchestra pit at the Royal Opera House.


The Nutcracker ballet has delighted audiences at Christmas for many decades yet it was deemed a failure at its initial performances. Based upon the current Royal Ballet production by Sir Peter Wright, this lecture takes a close look at how this well-loved ballet now takes its rightful place on stage and how the music of Tchaikovsky along with story-telling, design, dance and a little bit of stage ingenuity all come together to make the most magical escape for young and old alike.

This lecture can combine with "It's Not Just Tchaikovsky" for a three-part Study Day.

       The ROYAL OPERA HOUSE Covent Garden - an inside view      

FULL OR PART STUDY DAY (two or three sessions)

The day commences with in-depth looks at the history and architecture of the building.  We then discover the way that daily performances and rehearsals of opera and ballet and much else besides all fit into this elegant Victorian theatre – the flagship of the British arts world and the workplace of more than a thousand people.  Includes several performance video clips and additional focus on costume and set design, production values and how the digital age has been embraced by the opera and ballet worlds.