BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 25 — The musicians of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, elegant in black tie or long black skirts, were just settling into their places on the final night of their Christmas week concerts when the electricity failed and the performance hall was plunged into darkness. For a while afterward, the performance unrolled with a dreamlike quality. A note from the oboe floated through the pitch black, guiding the players tuning their instruments, until candles affixed to the music stands illuminated their scores. The musicians played an initial overture and then the tenor soloist, Emad Jamil, sang the Agnus Dei from Bizet's "L'Arlésienne." But with each turn of the sheet music, the players grew increasingly nervous about the risk of igniting the barely legible pages. So they stopped before the final Bach piano concerto. "We might as well have been playing in Bach's time," Mr. Jamil later joked ruefully. "But at least I could forget myself in the music. For a short period of time there was nothing but music. It's very hard living with the thought that soon we will have another war."
FERRARA, Italy — On a recent night at the Blue Elephant recreation center here, a clutch of parents watched adoringly as dozens of 3- and 4-year-olds sprinted through a colorful playroom, bounced on the cushioned floor or doodled on drawing pads, aglow with creative pride. It was Italy as outsiders still imagine it: child-worshiping and family-loving. But there was something wrong with the picture. Most of the parents were gazing at one, and only one, child. That was true of Gianluca Valenti, who said that giving his son any siblings would be too exhausting and expensive, and of Barbara Lenzi, who said that more than one child "doesn't seem to make sense." ... It touched on an increasingly worrisome reality for Italy and other European countries whose fertility rates have plummeted over the last decades, shifting one-child families close to the statistical norm. In Spain and Sweden, Germany and Greece, the total fertility rate — or the average number of children that a woman, based on current indicators, is expected to give birth to — was 1.4 or lower last year, according to the World Health Organization.
• Previous P&C