Right now, the arts world is ready to end one of the longest intermissions ever.
Broadway is rehearsing, orchestras are retooling, bands and ballerinas are reviving. They reflect “the resiliency of the performing arts,” PBS president Paula Kerger told the Television Critics Association.
Now her network will spotlight that. Even before its fall season starts, PBS has specials celebrating orchestra (Aug. 27), Broadway (Aug. 29), an opera conductor (Sept. 3) and ballet (Sept. 17).
There’s more in the fall, including a John Williams (shown here) premiere, a Martin Scorsese film and a triple-diva concert that reflects the resiliency Kerger was discussing.
For most performers, mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard said in PBS’ virtual press conference, this has been a tough time. Performing “is so much a part of our lives. To all of a sudden be stripped of that …”
She found other things to do – teaching, doing Zoom events, leading her regular life as a single mom. But after an 11-month break, she jumped at a chance to do “La Boheme” outdoors in Palm Beach; then she planned her PBS special: On Oct. 8, “Three Divas in Versailles” will have Leonard, Nadine Sierra and Ailyn Perez singing amid French splendor.
Outdoor concerts are one part of the arts comeback. After missing one summer, Tanglewood (near Boston) returned this year. “It’s a pretty magical place,” Williams said.
He’s 89 and has been conducting there for 40 years, ranging from the classics to his “Star Wars” music. Last month, he debuted his violin concerto there, with Anne-Sophie Mutter; PBS will air it Nov. 12.
But there are also plenty of concerts performed indoors … carefully. The divas, neatly distanced, sang in a grand – and mostly empty – theater.
One key concert will reflect ambition and a make-do approach. “Wicked in Concert” will jump between New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
That will be Aug. 29, as a sort of welcome-back concert. Two weeks later, “Wicked” re-opens, one of more than a dozen Broadway musicals returning in September.
“The arts bring so much to us,” Kerger said, “in terms of hope and possibility.”
Here is PBS’ arts line-up. Most will be on Fridays; all are at 9 p.m. (unless stated otherwise) and many are under the “Great Performances” banner:
– Aug. 27: “Vienna Summer Night Concert.”
– Aug. 29: “Wicked in Concert.”
– Sept. 3: “Yannick – An Artist’s Journey,” viewing Metropolitan Opera conductor Yanick Nezet-Seguin.
– Sept. 17: “The Red Shoes,” choreographed by Matthew Bourne.
– Oct. 8: “Three Divas at Versailles.” That will be 10 p.m., following the Hispanic Heritage Awards at 8. (The three divas have Latina roots; Leonard is Argentine on her mother’s side.) Also, a richly crafted Rita Moreno profile debuts Oct. 5.
– Oct. 29: “Now Hear This” season-opener. Scott Yoo and friends study Beethoven’s career and perform his most personal music.
– Nov. 5: “The Oratorio.” This Scorsese documentary looks at the 1826 show that brought Italian opera to New York. It’s followed at 10 p.m. by a performance of the piece.
– Nov. 26: “Coppelia,” The 1870 ballet mixes ballet stars and animation.