Arizona Artbeat: “Great Performances” Executive Producer David Horn

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For more than 40 years, the PBS show “Great Performances” has been bringing arts programming to viewers. David Horn, the executive producer of the show, will visit Arizona PBS in Phoenix to talk about the new season and will do the same on Arizona Horizon.

TED SIMONS: TONIGHT'S EDITION OF ARIZONA ARTBEAT LOOKS AT PBS'S GREAT PERFORMANCES, A STAPLE OF FINE ART PROGRAMMING ON PUBLIC TELEVISION FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS. JOINING US NOW IS THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF GREAT PERFORMANCES, DAVID HORN. WELCOME TO "ARIZONA HORIZON."

DAVID HORN: IT'S NICE TO MEET YOU.

TED SIMONS: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE. I KNOW YOU FLEW IN FROM NEW YORK.

DAVID HORN: I'VE ONLY BEEN IN ARIZONA ONCE BEFORE, BACK IN THE '80S, I WAS DOING A SHOW WITH LINDA RONSTADT. WE VISITED WITH HER FATHER, IT WAS THE TRADITION SHE HAD LEARNED, THE TYPE OF SONGS SHE HAD LEARNED FROM HER FATHER. IT WAS AT THE SONORAN DESERT.

TED SIMONS: YOU HAD THAT ARIZONA EXPERIENCE AND NOW YOU'RE SEEING A LITTLE OF THE URBAN EXPERIENCE WE'VE GOT HERE.

DAVID HORN: THIS IS UNIQUE, BECAUSE A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T KNOW, I THINK I WAS WALTER CRONKITE'S PRODUCER LONGER THAN ANYONE.

TED SIMONS: MY GOODNESS, AND HERE YOU ARE AT THE CRONKITE SCHOOL.

DAVID HORN: I'D HEARD ABOUT IT AND IT'S A FANTASTIC FACILITY. IT'S GREAT TO SEE THE STUDENTS WORKING HERE. AND WALTER HOSTED THE CONCERT ON NEW YEAR'S DAY FOR 24 YEARS.

TED SIMONS: THAT'S RIGHT. THE SPACE SHOTS AND THE ASSASSINATIONS. BUT HE DID THAT AS WELL.

DAVID HORN: HE LOVED MUSIC AND I GREW UP IN CAPE CANAVERAL AND THAT WAS ANOTHER THING WE SHARED. MY FATHER WORKED IN THE SPACE PROGRAM AND HE WAS A PROPONENT AND HUGE FAN.

TED SIMONS: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE GREAT PERFORMANCES?

DAVID HORN: GREAT PERFORMANCES IS THE BEST IN PERFORMING ARTS. WHEN I STARTED BACK IN 1979, PRIMARILY WE WERE DOING BALLET. THE PRIMARY WORKS OF GEORGE BALANCHINE, CLASSICAL CONCERTS AND OPERA BUT AS THE YEARS WENT ON, IT BECAME MORE MUSIC THEATER AND SOME ELEMENTS OF CLASSIC ROCK. WE'D ALWAYS DONE DRAMA. SORT OF THE PRECURSORS TO GREAT PERFORMANCE, A THING CALLED THEATER IN AMERICA AND I'VE EXPANDED THAT IN MY TENURE. BUT IT -- YOU KNOW, THERE IS A LOT OF GREAT PERFORMANCES OUT THERE. AND WE CAN'T GET THEM ALL BUT WE TRY.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS THE ORIGINAL MISSION, OBVIOUSLY, YOU WEREN'T THERE FROM THE VERY BEGINNING BUT FOR QUITE A WHILE. IT SOUNDS LIKE THE SHOW HAS CHANGED A LITTLE BIT IN TERMS OF WHAT IT PRESENTS. HAS THE MISSION CHANGED?

DAVID HORN: NO, THE MISSION HASN'T CHANGED AT ALL. ONE THING WE DO IN GREAT PERFORMANCES WE TRY TO ALSO CREATE PROGRAMS THAT ALLOW STATIONS TO FUND RAISE AROUND THEM. WE'VE DONE A LOT OF PROGRAMS, WITH ANDREA BOCELLI, MICHAEL BUBLE, JOSH GROBAN AND PROGRAMS WITH DAVID FOSTER, THAT KIND OF VARIETY AND HELPS US TO SUPPORT THE FINE ARTS.

TED SIMONS: I WAS GOING TO ASK, HOW ARE PROGRAMS SELECTED FOR GREAT PERFORMANCES? ARE THESE THINGS FAMILIAR, UNFAMILIAR BUT YOU'RE TAKING A FLYER ON. HOW DOES THAT WORK?

DAVID HORN: WE'VE BEEN AROUND FOR SO LONG THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE KNOW WHO WE ARE, WE HAVE AN ONGOING RELATIONSHIP. PART OF GREAT PERFORMANCES IS GREAT PERFORMANCES AT THE MET. THERE'S 10, 11 OPERAS AND IN THAT PARTICULAR GENRE I LOOK AT IT AS MY JOB TO FIND SOMETHING OCCASIONALLY FROM EUROPE, ONE OF THE BETTER OPERA COMPANIES IN EUROPE. OR REGIONAL OPERA COMPANIES, CHICAGO, SAN FRANCISCO, L.A. OPERA, DALLAS, YOU KNOW WE WANT TO FIND THAT BALANCE. AND IN DOING THAT, WE'VE ALSO ENCOURAGED THE -- THE AMERICAN OPERA COMPANIES TO TRY NEW WORKS, INTRODUCE NEW THINGS INTO THEIR REPERTOIRE.

TED SIMONS: I WAS GOING TO ASK, THE IDEA OF THE DYNAMIC BETWEEN THE WELL-KNOWN CLASSICS, THINGS PEOPLE ARE FAMILIAR WITH, AND THOSE MAYBE UNHEARD OF GEMS THAT YOU THINK PEOPLE SHOULD AT LEAST EXPERIENCE AND KNOW IT'S OUT THERE. HOW DO YOU WORK THAT BALANCE?

DAVID HORN: WELL, IT'S JUST TRYING TO -- YOU KNOW, WE DON'T SIT THERE AND GO, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE X AMOUNT OF THESE OR THOSE, THINGS COME TO US AND, YOU KNOW, AN UPCOMING SHOW, WE HAVE IS A NEW WORK, IT'S BASED ON THE ANNE PAGET NOVEL. DEL CANTO. AND SHE'S A TERRIFIC LADY, BUT IT'S A CONTEMPORARY OPERA. BUT OPERA IS NOT ALL WE DO, WE DO OTHER DISCIPLINES AS WELL.

TED SIMONS: THAT GOES INTO A SIMILAR QUESTION I JUST ASKED. PEOPLE TUNE IN AND EXPECT OPERA AND CLASSIC THEATER IN SOME WAY, SHAPE OR FORM. HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THEY ALSO GET SOMETHING THAT MIGHT SURPRISE THEM?

DAVID HORN: WELL, WE LOOK AROUND. BEING IN NEW YORK, THERE'S A LOT OF EXPERIMENTAL THINGS THAT HAPPEN. BACK IN WHEN I STARTED, WE WERE ON 52 WEEKS A YEAR SO IT WAS EASIER TO HAVE A LOT MORE UNUSUAL THINGS. BUT, YOU KNOW, WE'VE DONE THINGS LIKE, YOU KNOW, YOU WOULDN'T EXPECT US TO DO A SHOW ON CLOWNS. AND BILL ERWIN, A NEW AGE CLOWN AND DAVID SHINER, THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING YOU WOULD TUNE IN AND NOT EXPECT. BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE -- SOMEBODY LIKES THE SYMPHONY MAY NOT LIKE OPERA OR NOT LIKE A MUSICAL THEATER. IT'S TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY.

TED SIMONS: FOR THOSE WHO DON'T KNOW IF THEY LIKE SYMPHONY, OPERA OR MUSICAL THEATER, HOW DO YOU ATTRACT THEM?

DAVID HORN: IF YOU HAVE A QUALITY PERFORMANCE AND DYNAMIC ARTISTS, I THINK YOU GET SUCKED INTO IT. I MEAN, WE -- ONE OF THE HARDER THINGS IN CLASSICAL MUSIC IS TRYING TO FIND THOSE WHO COMMUNICATE SOPHISTICATED MUSICAL IDEAS LIKE A LEONARD BERNSTEIN. THERE WAS SUCCESS WITH MICHAEL TILSON THOMAS, WHO WAS AT THE SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY AND ALSO THE NEW WORLD AT MIAMI, WHICH IS A TRAINING ORCHESTRA FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE GRADUATED. HE'S DOWN THERE EXPERIMENTING A LOT AND HE'S A GREAT COMMUNICATOR ON CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN MUSIC AND DRAWING LINES TO THINGS IN THE PAST.

TED SIMONS: WITH SOCIAL MEDIA AND THE INTERNET, IT'S BECOME A SHORT INTENTION SPAN WORLD. AGAIN, HOW DO YOU BREAK THROUGH THAT, HOW DO YOU ATTRACT THOSE WHO HAVE THEIR FACE IN A SCREEN MOST OF THE DAY?

DAVID HORN: I THINK WE HAVE A SHOW COMING UP ON ALEXANDER HAMILTON AND THE MUSICAL HAS REALLY ATTRACTED A LOT OF INTEREST IN A DIVERSE AND YOUNGER AUDIENCE. THE SHOW'S TWO BLOCKS FROM MY OFFICE AND YOU WALK DOWN, THE PEOPLE LINING UP TO TRY TO GET TICKETS AND -- IT'S NOT YOUR NORMAL BROADWAY AUDIENCE SO WE'RE USING SOCIAL MEDIA OPPORTUNITIES WITH HAMILTON MORE THAN WE'VE EVER DO DONE. WHEN YOU PRODUCE SOMETHING IN THE QUALITY THAT WE DO, WHETHER IT'S THE BROADWAY STAGE OR THE METROPOLITAN OPERA, I'M NOT SURE I WANT PEOPLE WATCHING IT ON THEIR PHONE BECAUSE YOU DON'T GET THE SAME TYPE OF EXPERIENCE. IT'S NOT AS CONTENT DRIVEN -- YOU CAN'T CASUALLY LOOK AT IT ON YOUR PHONE.

TED SIMONS: THAT'S AN INTERESTING POINT. NOW PEOPLE HAVE 68 TELEVISION SCREENS IN THEIR LIVING ROOM. YOU CAN -- HAS THAT CHANGED HOW SOME OF THESE PERFORMANCES ARE PHOTOGRAPHED OR VIDEOTAPED OR BROADCASTED?

DAVID HORN: OUR SAYING WAS THAT TELEVISION WAS ALWAYS THE SECONDARY EXPERIENCE. YOU SHOULD GO TO THE THEATER AND EXPERIENCE IT YOURSELF. BUT THAT KIND OF CHANGED WITH HIGH DEFINITION TELEVISION. IT DIDN'T WORK AT ALL WITH 3-D. EVERYBODY LOOKED LIKE A HOLOGRAPH. BUT WITH THE HIGH DEFINITION THE EXPERIENCE--FOR EXAMPLE, MY MOTHER-IN-LAW, A TRAINED OPERA SINGER, HAD THE SEATS HIGHER UP WHERE THE SOUND WAS THE BEST. BUT NOW SHE LIKES TO GO TO THE HD OPERAS AND CINEMAS NOW, IT'S A BETTER EXPERIENCE, SHE CAN SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING. THERE'S GOOD AND BAD WITH THAT. SOMETIMES IT CANNIBALIZES PEOPLE ACTUALLY BUYING TICKETS.

TED SIMONS: A LOT OF EVENTS, EVEN SPORTING EVENTS THEY'RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO THE TURNSTILES AS OPPOSED TO THE SCREEN.

DAVID HORN: ON THE TECHNOLOGY POINT, WHERE THE -- THE -- YOU KNOW, TO DO THE BIG SHOWS, THEY'RE VERY EXPENSIVE. A LOT OF PERFORMERS AND A LOT OF RIGHTS YOU HAVE TO ACQUIRE. WE'RE GETTING INTO THE STREAMING BUSINESS. THAT'S PART OF THE BUSINESS PLAN AND I THINK WE EXPERIMENTED WITH DIGITAL CINEMA WHICH WORKS TO A CERTAIN AGREE BUT THAT'S THE FUTURE. I HATE TO SAY THIS IN A ENVIRONMENT LIKE THIS, BROADCAST IS GOING TO BE A THING OF THE PAST, EXCEPT FOR PUBLIC TELEVISION BECAUSE IT'S FREE OVER THE AIR.

TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT, WE'LL LET YOU LEAVE THE BUILDING. WE'VE GOT ABOUT 30 SECONDS LEFT HERE. IN ALL YOUR YEARS WHAT'S BEEN YOUR FAVORITE GREAT PERFORMANCE?

DAVID HORN: MY FAVORITE IS THE GOSPEL AT COLONUS, THE ONE THAT STARRED MORGAN FREEMAN AND IT WAS THE OEDIPUS STORY TOLD AS IF IT WERE A GOSPEL SERVICE. AND THEY HAD A WHOLE HISTORY OF- CLARENCE FOUNTAIN AND THE FIVE BLIND BOYS FROM ALABAMA ACTUALLY PLAYING OEDIPUS. THAT WAS TERRIFIC.

TED SIMONS: ALL RIGHT, AGAIN, WELCOME TO ARIZONA, GOOD TO HAVE YOU BACK HERE AND CONTINUED SUCCESS WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES.

DAVID HORN: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

TED SIMONS: THANK YOU. AND THAT'S IT FOR NOW, I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US! YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.

CLOSED CAPTION PRODUCTIONS WWW.CCPRODUCTIONS.COM 844-335-0911

David Horn, executive producer, "Great Performances"

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