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Publication date:
February 9, 2001
New York Review Books
Visual & Performing Arts

Does an opera producer do anything besides tell the singers where to stand? Can a single note be played more or less beautifully on the piano? In these essays, five of our most accomplished artists and critics explore questions of technique and interpretation in the performing arts.

Tom Stoppard considers ways of controlling how an audience gets information while watching a play, and Charles Rosen reflects on the very physical relationship between the musician and the instrument. Jonathan Miller describes ways of restoring dramatic motivation to some of our best-loved operas. Garry Wills argues that the collaborative and commercial pressures of filmmaking have produced some of our greatest cinematic achievements, and Geoffrey O’Brien looks at how hip audiences in the Nineties have rediscovered Sixties pop music icon Burt Bacharach.

Witty, trenchant, often surprising, and always insightful, this collection is essential reading for all devotees of theatrical, musical, and film performance.


Each [essay] drips, like a honeycomb, with erudition—which is not surprising—but each also contains the kind of stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mind tidbits that make the book seem as gee-whiz in its way as an issue of Popular Mechanics.— San Jose Mercury News

Highly enjoyable and rich in suggestive incidental insights.— Rupert Christiansen, The Spectator