Seville

Inner Harbor

Cádiz, Spain—No famed church, museum, or historical totem draws outsiders to this city on the Atlantic. So few come. Cádiz returns the lack of interest. Let the summer hordes swelter in Seville or Madrid. We’ll feed and entertain you, the body language of the place tells a new arrival, but we don’t need your validation. Take us as we are. And to be honest, the first impressions won’t beguile. Arriving by road, you pass through an unseemly industrial area reminiscent of the New Jersey Meadowlands, followed by a banal stretch of modern beachfront Spanish architecture.

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Victoria Burnett of The New York Times recently wrote a fascinating piece about Spain's entry into the wild world of high-speed rail. The country's first route, between Madrid and Seville, opened in 1992. Since then, the national rail network has grown to some 2,000 kilometers of track, and it's proven so wildly popular that politicians from all parties are tripping over themselves to bolster service—the current plan calls for 10,000 kilometers of track by 2020.

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A Close Shave

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street(DreamWorks) ForeignersBy Caryl Phillips (Knopf, 235 pp., $24.95)  Records of Shelley, Byron, and the AuthorBy Edward John Trelawny (New York Review Books, 308 pp., $12.95)   I. As Sweeney Todd croons to his razor, “My friend, my faithful friend,” more in love with its sharp blade than with Mrs. Lovett, his partner in crime, you may find yourself wondering what it is about opera and its ubiquitous vengeful barbers.

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To Awaken the Dead

David Macaulay: The Art of Drawing Architecture National Building Museum.   I.  What makes a writer a "children's book writer"?

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Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera By Philip Gossett (University of Chicago Press, 675 pp., $35) At the end of Voltaire's tragedy about the Babylonian queen Semiramis, her son Arsace kills his own mother. The great bel canto composer Rossini later took over the story for a tragic opera, and his work also ended with the same fearful matricide.

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