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Culture Watch: What's worth looking for this week in the arts

November 17, 2010 | 10:32 am

Showtime Books: “Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater” by Larry Stempel (W.W. Norton & Co.) This history shimmers with critical insights into the American musical as it evolves from its 19th century beginnings through its golden age in the mid-20th century to its post-Sondheim deliquescence. One of the most astute guides out there.

— Charles McNulty

Books: To coincide with the debut of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston's $345-million Art of the Americas wing, an updated and expanded catalog of the permanent collection has been published. “A New World Imagined,” with lots of illustrations and plenty of recent scholarship in more than 300 pages, is especially strong on Colonial and 19th century painting in the Northeast, the venerable institution’s strength.

— Christopher Knight

CDs: “Ombra Cara,” Bejun Mehta sings arias from Handel operas (Harmonia Mundi). Combine Mehta — the Maria Callas of countertenors — with conductor René Jacobs and the edgy period instrument Freiburg Baroque Orchestra and fireworks are inevitable. The dramatic intensity that Mehta and Jacobs achieve, along with terrific singing, will bring listeners back for more.

— Mark Swed

DVDs: “Der Rosenkavalier” (Kultur). The 1962 classic version of Richard Strauss’ opera, starring Elisabeth Schwartzkopf and with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, is pure overdressed ’60s pastry, fabulously sweet and fabulously fake. Now, this musically and visually high caloric production gets the Blu-ray treatment.

— M.S.

Journals: The new issue of the architecture journal Log looks at the tricky process of curating shows about architecture; published to coincide with the Venice Architecture Biennale, it includes essays by Jean-Louis Cohen, Henry Urbach, Eve Blau and the Museum of Modern Art's Barry Bergdoll.

— Christopher Hawthorne