Graham Fawcett

writer, teacher, translator and broadcaster

photo: Birgitta Johansson


Broadcasting, Language Work and Publications


Graham Fawcett trained as a studio interviewer in the early 1980s with the then BBC Radio Talks and Documentaries department. Since then he has worked as a freelance deviser, writer and presenter of documentaries/features, mainly for BBC Radio 3 but also for Radio 4, the World Service and the Italian Service. Some programmes are in the National Sound Archive and are marked NSA below.

His programmes on literature for Radio 3 have included:

Dante Alighieri

(A Voyage of Sighs, R3)

a new verse translation of Dante's early verse-and-prose love journal - BBC Radio Drama commissionímek_-_Josef_Mysliveček.jpg/228px-Jan_Vilímek_-_Josef_Mysliveček.jpg

Josef Myslivecek

(Mozart's Bohemian Friend, R3)

a new play for radio

Carlos Fuentes

(Postponing Death, R3)

a conversation with the Mexican novelist

Palazzo Mocenigo

Grand Canal


where Byron lived

(Rewriting Venice, R3)

an illustrated feature

about the Venetian lives of Byron, Henry James, Ezra Pound and Marcel Proust

  • a new verse translation of Dante's La Vita Nuova commissioned by BBC Radio Drama and broadcast as 'A Voyage of Sighs' with Mike Gwilym as Dante Alighieri;
  • A Voyage of Sighs is an attempt to make Dante's autobiographical cycle of poems La Vita Nuova digestible. The poems (translated into flowing English by Graham Fawcett) are punctuated by chunks of conversation between Peter Levi and Pamela Wiliams". (Robert Hanks, The Guardian).
  • "Radio 3 is probably the only channel in the world which would have the courage to present, in its original Italian, the 31 poems encased in prose that make up Dante's La Vita Nuova. Yet even Radio 3 jibbed at doing so, opting for the next best thing. And a splendid next best thing A Voyage of Sighs is too, taking excerpts from Graham Fawcett's new translation of Dante as a starting-point . . . A Voyage of Sighs demonstrates once again that there are no limits to what radio when myriad artistic forces are all pulling in the same direction"(Peter Davalle, Radio Choice, The Times).
  • a play, Mozart's Bohemian Friend, about the Bohemian composer Josef Myslivecek;

    “I definitely kept my promise to you to mention your radio play in the book--in fact, you and it are mentioned on the very first page of the main text. I'm delighted to have been able to do so. I simply loved what you did”. Daniel E Freeman, author of Josef Myslivecek, "Il Boemo": The Man and His Music (Detroit Monographs in Musicology) , 2009

  • Rewriting Venice, a feature about Byron, Henry James and Ezra Pound in Radio 3's Twenty Minutes slot;

    “Very engaging and an exemplary pronunciation guide”.

    “Very stimulating and more comprehensive than any other attempt at a culture-portrait of La Serenissima which I know of”. (Radio 3 listeners’ letters)

  • feature-length interviews with poets Miroslav Holub NSA, Ivan Lalic NSA, Thom Gunn, Adrienne Rich, Czeslaw Milosz, Robert Hass and Galway Kinnell and with novelists Carlos Fuentes (Postponing Death (1986 - reviewed in the 'Out of the Air' feature in The Listener 14 August 1986 as 'Renaissance Buster Keaton'), Mario Vargas Llosa (The Ingenious Don Mario NSA), Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Sociable Surrealism NSA), Dacia Maraini (A Poisoned Thorn NSA), Aharon Appelfeld (in Whispers of the Holocaust NSA, Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld talks to Graham Fawcett about his writing, its relation to his chilhood experiences in World War II and being a jew in Germany in the 1930s. Graham Fawcett also talks about Appelfeld's works (in particular, Badenheim 1939 and The Age of Wonders) and David Suchet reads extracts); the Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah (Sour Sweet Somalia NSA), and the Guatemalan writer Victor Perera (A Way of Seeing NSA);

  • Miroslav Holub

    ("In The Test-tube", Third Ear, R3)

    an interview with the Czech poet

    Ivan Lalic

    (Poetry Cambridge,R3)

    an interview with the Serbian poet and

    translator within a feature about the 1982

    Cambridge Poetry Festival

    Adrienne Rich

    an interview with the American poet

    at her home in Santa Cruz(R3)

  • Dante's Inferno,
  • the Dante Translation Project at the Rotterdam International Poetry Festival NSA,
  • the Cambridge Poetry Festival,
  • the teaching of creative writing in America;
  • the British novel (Plot or Not NSA, including interviews with Eva Figes and Gabriel Josipovici);
  • Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa's The Leopard,including interviews with the Princess di Lampedusa, the author's widow, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, their stepson and the model for Tancredi in the novel, novelist Giorgio Bassani, and Suso Cecchi d'Amico who wrote the screenplay for Visconti's film of The Leopard
  • Tomasi di Lampedusa's novel may have been a best seller, even a popular film, but Graham Fawcett thinks there's more to it than a historical novel about the decline of the fortunes of an aristocratic family. Could it be an acute observation of the state of Italian politics and its apparently infinite caapcity for resisting change?"('3' Magazine, November 1982)

  • studio discussions on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (with A S Byatt and Gavin Ewart),
  • the Struga International Poetry Festival in Macedonia
  • the Shelley Bicentenary in Italy (with Tony Curtis, Vicky Feaver and Adrian Mitchell) NSA; and
  • a report from Helsinki and Archangel Karelia about the Finnish national epic, Kalevala, for Night Waves.

    Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

    (The Leopard of Sicily, R3)

    a feature recorded in Florence and Rome

    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


    a studio discussion with A S Byatt and Gavin Ewart about the poem behind Sir Harrison Birtwistlle opera Gawain

    Illustration from the Kalevala

    Akseli Gallen-Kallela 1896

    (Night Waves, R3)

    a feature recorded in Finland and Western Russia about the sources of the Kalevalai

Programmes about Italian composers have included:

  • documentaries on Luigi Dallapiccola and his life and music under Fascism (Out of Darkness NSA) and Luigi Nono (The Improbable Dream NSA);
  • Composer of the Week, as presenter on Berio (1995) and Cherubini/Spontini, and as interlocutor on Berio (1999); and
  • features on Puccini (The Tosca File NSA ), Mascagni (The Cavalleria Man NSA), Giordano (Who was Umberto Giordano ? NSA ), and Rossini (Beyond the Buffo); and
  • a report from the 2001 Aldeburgh Festival about the Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino.
  • Graham Fawcett interviewed Luciano Berio before an audience in the Royal Festival Hall's Chelsfield Room prior to one of the BBC Symphony Orchestra's Composer Portrait concerts in February 2000.

Luigi Dallapiccola

(Out of Darkness, R3)

a feature recorded in Florence

and London

Luciano Berio

(Berio in the Labyrinth, R3)

a feature recorded at the composer's home in Radicondoli and at the University of Genoa

Luigi Nono

(The Improbable Dream, R3)

a feature recorded in Venice, Salzburg, Murzzuschlag and London, including interviews with Pierre Boulez and Massimo Caccciari

Salvatore Sciarrino


from the Aldeburgh Festival

Other music programmes:

  • two documentaries, in the 1999-2000 Radio 3 Sounding the Century series, on concert-halls and music-in- education in the 20th century;
  • Composer of the Week as presenter on Honegger, and as deviser and researcher in 2000 on Satie, in 2001 on Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Gounod, Lalo and Maurice Duruflé, in 2002 on Lili and Nadia Boulanger, Weber, the Bach Family, and Max Bruch and, in 2003, Hugo Wolf and Irving Berlin;

    "The series on Irving Berlin is so fascinating it is keeping me from doing any work- delightful!"(Radio 3 listener)

  • Eastern Approaches - a series of four programmes NSA on the folk music of Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Hungary;
  • 67 editions of Mainly for Pleasure;
  • The Rush for Pelleas, comparing Fauré's, Schoenberg's and Sibelius's orchestral works in the light of Debussy's opera and Maeterlinck's play NSA;
  • an appearance at the Proms as co-presenter of an Indian music night and on Radio 3's Choirworks to talk about the Dream of Gerontius which Dvorak never wrote and yet in another sense had already written;
  • Forzano Italia NSA, on the Italian librettist Giovacchino Forzano, who wrote for Mascagni, Puccini, Wolf-Ferrari, Giordano and Leoncavallo;
  • Leipzig Was A City of Merchants and Scholars, a feature report from Leipzig on the history of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra for the Proms season, including an interview with Sir Neville Marriner NSA; and
  • Sex and Death in the City of Dreams, a feature on Korngold's operas, which uncovers the dramatic world of art and life in Vienna in the early 20th century and follows the thread of Erich Korngold's operatic imagination from there to the medieval cities of Bruges and Vienna, where he set "Die tote Stadt" and "Violanta" NSA

    Arthur Honegger

    (Composer of the Week, R3)

    Nadia and Lili Boulanger

    (Composer of the Week, R3)

    Debussy Pelleas et Melisande

    Act 1 Scene 1

    (The Rush for Pelleas, R3)

    a feature comparing the settings of this story to

    music by Debussy, Faure and Schoenberg

Programmes of literature and music include:

  • Pastoral Sympathies, the first of eight documentaries for the 2001 Proms season, about the idea of Pastoral in poetry and music from ancient China to the present day;
  • Land of Heroes, on Sibelius and the Kalevala; and
  • Berio in the Labyrinth, a documentary tracing Luciano Berio's collaboration with the poet Edoardo Sanguineti and including interviews with both NSA.
  • Other features include:
  • Picture Postcards, Hanging Gardens and God, on how Second Viennese School composers set poetry to music and explores new ideas which brought writers and composers together in early 20th century Vienna NSA;
  • Life Before Carmen, on the lives of Prosper Merimée and Georges Bizet and the Carmen story;
  • Hair Today, on Samson in music and poetry;
  • Softest Music to Attending Ears, tracing the story of Romeo and Juliet in opera and theatre NSA;
  • The Unholy Office, literature, music and the Spanish Inquisition, as part of Radio 3's coverage of the Royal Opera Verdi Festival from Covent Garden, with readings by Denis Quilley and Timothy West NSA "Taking Verdi's character of the Grand Inquisitor as his starting-point, Graham Fawcett looks at the prosecuting detectives of the Inquisition in literature and music from the 13th century to Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" ; and
  • The Cloud and the Crag, on Rachmaninov's setting of Chekhov's short story 'On the Road' (abridged and dramatised)."It was a wonderful necklace of delicate images and ideas. You have such an unusual ability to get down and really look and smell and touch both the little and the great. The woman had an insouciance (until the last minute) I will never have again. Your vignettes were zen-like. So many more impressions. The music was wonderful too". (Kate Fleming)

  • Second Viennese School composers Schoenberg, Klemperer, Scherchen,

    Webern and Erwin Stein in 1924.

    (Picture Postcards, Hanging Gardens and God, R3)

    Picasso's Carmen

    (Life Before Carmen, R3)

    a feature tracing the source of the opera to its original creator Prosper Merimee and how his life parallels that of Bizet

    Sergei Rachmaninov

    (The Cloud and the Crag, R3)

    a feature setting Chekhov's short story 'On The Road' alongside Rachmaninov's music as the great dramatist and young composer meet, with readings by Robert Powell

Radio 4 appearances include:

  • A Little Difference - an interview with the poet and political prisoner Jorge Valls Arango (reprinted in The Listener);
  • a feature on Crime Writing in Sardinia, including an interviewwith the Italian writer Salvatore Mannuzzu
  • a documentary on the 1966 Florence Flood including interviews from eye-witnesses;
    "You actually caught the real impact the flood made on people and made it present to millions of BBC listeners". (Mario Carmiani, Florence)
  • Kaleidoscope, Bookshelf, The Heritage Quiz; and
  • a Front Row discussion of the 2001 Botticelli's Dante exhibition at the R.A.

Salvatore Mannuzzu

Salvatore Mannuzzu


The Bapistry, Piazza Duomo, Florence

during the flood


Botticelli. Vergil and Dante in Hell

(Front Row, R4)

World Service appearances include:

  • A Question of Belief (review of Kingsley Amis's Collected Short Stories and FredericRaphael's Oxbridge Blues)
  • In Search of the real Rupert Brooke (review of John Lehmann's Rupert Brooke: Life and Legend)


Graham Fawcett taught a Saturday morning workshop on translation at Goldsmith's College from 1991 to 1996. He then devised and ran a course at Goldsmiths from 1997 to 2008 which prepared students for the Institute of Linguists' Diploma in Translation examinations (Italian and English). He now offers private coaching in preparation for this examination. See [translation coaching].

He has worked as a translator and interpreter in Italian for the last 35 years (including for the British Council in Britain and Venice); as a voice-over in both Italian and English for the last ten years; and, more recently, as a bilingual/monolingual media trainer for industry, specialising in issues relating to environment, health and safety. Published translations include Federico Fellini's Cinecittà (Studio Vista) and Giorgio Bagnoli's The La Scala Encyclopedia of Opera (Simon and Schuster).


Graham Fawcett's poems have appeared in Poetry Review and PN Review and have been broadcast on Radio 3, and his articles in The Sunday Times, The Times Literary Supplement, Books and Bookmen, Magma and Poetry London. His lecture Imagination and the Classical Inheritance in Literature is published by The Guild of Pastoral Psychology (1999), and Poetry is Communication is in a new trilingual book of lectures, Poesia e Comunicazione, edited by Francesca Bugliani and Luca Panieri and published by Casa Editrice Lint, Trieste (2001).