×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmys nominees: Classic music noms are PBS’ time to shine

Public TV proud of programs both 'educational and entertaining'

It’s not one of the glamour categories, and it won’t even be presented during the televised awards Sept. 16, but the Emmy for outstanding classical music/dance program gets plenty of attention among culture mavens and it’s a rare moment for public TV to shine.

In fact, all five of this year’s nominees aired on PBS: “American Dream: Andrea Bocelli’s Statue of Liberty Concert,” “Charlotte Church: Live From Jerusalem,” “Jazz at Lincoln Center: When the Saints Go Marching In,” “Great Performances: La Traviata From Paris” and “The Three Tenors Christmas.”

Three feature popular opera singers (Bocelli, Church and the familiar tenor triumvirate of Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti), one has Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra celebrating the music of Louis Armstrong, and one is a complex production of Verdi’s opera that was performed live on location in Paris.

All 12,000 Academy of Television Arts & Sciences members choose the nominees; the winner will be selected by a panel of about 100.

“This is a good balance between traditional classical and more popular, accessible artists,” says Glenn DuBose, senior director for drama, performance and arts at PBS, who says the pubcaster is attempting to lose the elitist tag that’s dogged its musical fare by looking for fresh ways to showcase classical talent.

“We want programs that will appeal to a lot of people, not just a very specific group.”

David Horn, who has won two Emmys as producer of PBS’ long-running “Great Performances,” concedes that ratings for straight classical concert shows have dwindled in recent years. He cites several reasons including a parallel decline in general interest in classical music, a lack of true classical superstars on the order of a Bernstein or Horowitz and the expensive nature of event programming like “La Traviata.”

“What we always try to do is make it more educational and entertaining at the same time, try to illuminate what’s going on,” says Horn, who is choosy about the look and content of every program. “I loved the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Tristan.’ Should that be a television show? I’m not so sure. When you have two people sitting on a bench in silhouette for 45 minutes, that’s tough television to take.”

Six-time Emmy winner Peter Gelb, who produced the acclaimed Wagner “Ring” cycle for PBS in 1990 and who now runs the Sony Classical label, is blunt about the once-popular symphony concert show.

“They never made good television and they never will,” he says. “The more successful arts programs on TV, from a purely aesthetic point of view, are those that really are designed for the camera. There are so many wonderful programs on television that, if you’re going to make a musical program, it has to be competitive from a visual perspective.”

Financial considerations also loom large.

“Public television and the cable networks are never going to foot the bill for the kind of production value that goes into these programs. If anything, they will pay a small portion or a percentage of it,” says Gelb.

Sony Classical will back shows that promote its artists or projects that have strong sales potential as albums (such as a “West Side Story” concert in New York’s Central Park or a Vangelis work performed among Athens’ ancient Greek ruins, both of which will air on PBS next season).

So what classical programming tends to get nominated, and to win the Emmy? That’s easy, says nine-time winning producer John Goberman (“Live From Lincoln Center”).

“The shows that people enjoyed, more than the ones that are esoteric. It’s not difficult. You shouldn’t put something on television that you can’t sell tickets to.”

More TV

  • Bohemian Rhapsody

    'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Among Cinema Audio Society Winners

    Queen biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” won the Cinema Audio Society’s top prize for sound mixing at Saturday night’s 55th annual CAS Awards. The film is Oscar-nominated for sound mixing this year along with “Black Panther,” “First Man,” “Roma” and “A Star Is Born.” In a surprise over heavy-hitters “Incredibles 2” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Wes [...]

  • Marvelous Mrs Maisel Vice

    'Vice,' 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel' Lead Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Winners

    Adam McKay’s Dick Cheney biopic “Vice,” starring Oscar nominees Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Sam Rockwell, won two awards at the sixth annual Make-Up and Hair Stylists Guild Awards Saturday night. The film won for best period and/or character makeup as well as special makeup effects. “Mary Queen of Scots” received the prize for period [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Good Morning America

    Jussie Smollett Angrily Denies Complicity in Attack

    Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett issued a statement Saturday denying that he orchestrated his Jan. 29 assault, and saying he is “angered” and “devastated” by recent developments in the case. Chicago police want to interview Smollett, after learning new evidence from two Nigerian brothers who were released on Friday night. Local media outlets have [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Empire

    Chicago Police Want to Talk to Jussie Smollett as New Evidence Emerges

    Chicago police are seeking to re-interview “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, after new evidence emerged in his alleged assault. Smollett has claimed that two men attacked him at 2 a.m. on Jan. 29, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. The Chicago Police Department has consistently said [...]

  • Five Takes on Canal Plus, Federation’s

    Just Days Left to Catch Canal Plus’ ‘The Bureau’ on MyFFF

    The most lauded of titles on this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, UniFrance’s online showcase featured by over 50 OTT services around the world, may not be a film but a drama series. With four seasons aired, and a milestone in world sales on a French TV show, slow-boiling espionage series ‘Le Bureau des légendes’ (“The Bureau”) is [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content