Chris Smith may have dumbed down somewhat since the days of his Cambridge PhD, but at least he knows who Gyorgy Ligeti is, even if he didn't know the plot of his opera Le Grand Macabre, one of the first productions scheduled for the Royal Opera House on its re-opening. 'It is not a work I am familiar with,' he said at the topping out last week, 'so I checked my reference books for a synopsis. Much of the plot is surreal. Early on the end of the world is predicted and some well-intentioned characters unwittingly assist in the process of destruction. After some of the ensemble have met their doom, the boy prince tries to chair a meeting between two ministers but the absurdities of politics are beyond him so they play games instead, until the secret police burst in. The leader of the police (the name of Kaufman, I believe) announces that the people are in revolt and serious public disturbances threaten their well-being. It seems that nothing can stop the prophecies of doom, but by the end, amid confusion and drinking, there are survivors.' This must be a reference to Dixon Jones and bdp. Ligeti is, of course, the Hungarian composer, born in1922.