‘The Magic of…’ on ‘Great Performances’

This January, “Great Performances” is exploring two historic music events in new documentaries about soprano Maria Callas and pianist Vladimir Horowitz, two international music icons of the twentieth century. Watch them now — click below or find them on the PBS Video app.

Throughout its more than 40-year history on PBS, Great Performances has provided an unparalleled showcase of the best in all genres of the performing arts, serving as America’s most prestigious and enduring broadcaster of cultural programming.

The Magic of Horowitz

Experience the drama and excitement of legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz’s dramatic homecoming to Russia some sixty years after his departure in 1925. Horowitz’s demanding concert program of Scarlatti, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Schubert, Liszt and Chopin represented a lovingly personal selection of works, chosen as much for their private meaning as for the historic significance of the composers. Intimate close-ups of Horowitz’s agile hands are interspersed with the reactions of the enthralled audience, revealing their unguarded emotional response.

The program provides historical context as well as interviews with Horowitz’s former manager Peter Gelb and contemporary piano virtuosos Martha Argerich and Daniil Trifonov. Witness the world’s leading romantic pianist in his most magnificent and historic performance.

The Magic of Callas

The beginning of 1964 held a great surprise for the music world: Maria Callas returned to the opera stage. Her performance in the title role of Tosca at London’s Royal Opera House became a sensation — not even the Beatles received more press coverage. All this for an artist whose glorious career was said to be over, with scandals rather than performances most frequently generating headlines.

Unlucky in love, Callas wanted to show the world that the title of “Primadonna assoluta” was still rightfully hers. Her fans queued outside the Royal Opera House — in sleeping bags and on folding chairs — to obtain the sought-after tickets. Fortunately, a British broadcaster recorded the opera’s second act, capturing one of the most dramatic acts in opera history. Featuring new insights and commentary from today’s opera stars, this recording remains one of the few opportunities to experience the legendary Callas on stage and witness her peerless vocal interpretation and thrillingly emotional technique.

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