Enamored Magicians

Francine Prose

Visiting “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle,” it’s hard not to feel nostalgic…but for what? Perhaps for a time before young artists and recent MFA graduates were accustomed to droning on, with soporific self-seriousness, about their “art practice”; before the dictates of the art market had leached so much of the fun out of art; and before artists aspired to live in homes that closely resembled those of their wealthiest collectors.

Opera from the Other Side

Philip Gossett

To write the history of opera production, not only must one know the repertory well, but one needs to understand the extraordinary work of the many people involved backstage who make an operatic spectacle function. Few people are as capable of writing such a history as Evan Baker, author of the new book, From the Score to the Stage: An Illustrated History of Continental Opera Production and Staging.

The Cradle of Soul

Andrew Martin

Muscle Shoals tells the story of how a tiny Alabama town on the Tennessee River became the site of some of the best rock and soul music recordings of the 1960s and 1970s. Along with Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, Etta James, the Rolling Stones, and Paul Simon recorded some of their best-known songs in Muscle Shoals. It’s where Percy Sledge sang “When a Man Loves a Woman,” where the Staple Singers did “I’ll Take You There.”

Louis CK in Double Vision

Adam Thirlwell

Tomorrow Night represents Louis CK’s provenance. It makes the sofa-bound viewer consider a constant artistic problem: How does a voice become a voice? And there are perhaps two elements to Tomorrow Night that offer a possible answer. There’s the plot—which manages by a series of dreamlike maneuvers to corral its characters into gruesome situations. Our masturbating hero, Charles Brown, after a failed date with a girl called Lola Vagina, ends up marrying an old woman called Florence, because of the orderly beauty of her housekeeping, and adopting a sullen teenager called Clean. And there are the details that are pure surreal digression: like that deadpan way in which Louis CK, hosing down the sidewalk, also hoses down passing pedestrians, with no comment from anyone. No one in this miniature sequence is ever seen again.

The Serene Beauty of Canova

Andrew Butterfield

Canova was the most celebrated artist in Europe in the early nineteenth century, and yet he has rarely been the subject of an exhibition in America, nor has it been easy to see many major works by him in this country. Until now. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is presently home to a small but serenely beautiful show, “Antonio Canova: The Seven Last Works.” The exhibition features the seven plaster models for reliefs, which Canova was working on at the time of his death in 1822.