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GREAT PERFORMANCES: The Magic Of Callas

Stream or tune in Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 + Sunday, Feb. 14 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Maria Callas in

Credit: Courtesy of Photofest

Above: Maria Callas in "Tosca."

GREAT PERFORMANCES shines a spotlight on international music icons Maria Callas and Vladimir Horowitz with two concert documentaries exploring the stories behind the most remarkable performances of their lives.

Both films are introduced by Peter Gelb, currently general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, as well as Vladimir Horowitz’s former manager.

In 1964, opera sensation Maria Callas hadn’t performed in more than two years due to her tumultuous personal life. Critics were concerned that she had lost her voice until she made her return with a sensational performance at Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden.

And more than 60 years since his departure from Russia, legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz finally made his homecoming return in April 1986 with a concert at the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow.

The Magic Of Callas: Preview

Explore the legacy of superstar Maria Callas in this documentary detailing her 1964 comeback at London’s Royal Opera House in “Tosca,” featuring insights from fans including Rufus Wainwright and opera stars Thomas Hampson and Kristine Opolais. Airing: 01/15/21

“The Magic of Callas” documents the soprano’s triumphant return to the stage for an extraordinary performance of Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca.”

Maria Callas' "Vissi d'Arte"

Watch Maria Callas' stellar performance of the heartwrenching and classic Tosca aria "Vissi d'Arte." Antonio Pappano, Music Director of the Royal Opera House in London, speaks on the state of Callas' voice and life. Airing: 01/15/21

Through performance footage recorded from the opera’s second act and original interviews with opera luminaries Thomas Hampson, Kristine Opolais and Rolando Villazón, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright and Royal Opera House music director Antonio Pappano, the film reveals why this performance cemented Callas’ place as one of opera’s finest voices of all time.

About Act II of "Tosca"

Antonio Pappano discusses the power and impact of Act II of Puccini's "Tosca" and how opera is about more than a singer's voice. Airing: 01/15/21

The program tells the story behind Callas’ surprise return to the opera stage after her illustrious career was said to be over and her romance with billionaire boyfriend Aristotle Onassis was generating headlines, instead of her vocal virtuosity.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Photofest

Maria Callas, opera singer (1958)

Callas wanted to show the world that the title of prima donna assoluta was still rightfully hers.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Photofest

Maria Callas, Opera singer (1958) at curtain call after her concert at the Chicago Civic Opera House.

With the condition that acclaimed director Franco Zeffirelli stage the production, the legendary diva once again stepped into the difficult role of Tosca. Fans who waited outside for up to five winter nights to obtain the sought-after tickets witnessed one of the most dramatic acts in opera history.

Photo credit: Courtesy of ulstein bild

Maria Callas (undated photo)

“The Magic Of Horowitz,” premiering Friday, January 22 at 10 p.m., delves into the story behind Horowitz’ virtuoso 1986 Moscow concert.

The documentary weaves together concert footage, including intimate close-ups of Horowitz’ agile hands interspersed with the emotional audience reactions, historical context and original interviews with Horowitz’ former manager Peter Gelb, as well as composer Tatjana Komarova, violoncellist Alina Kudelevic and contemporary piano virtuosos Martha Argerich, Daniil Trifonov and Sophie Pacini.

The Magic Of Horowitz: Preview

Experience legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz’s 1986 Russian homecoming for a sold-out concert of personal favorites, featuring commentary from former manager Peter Gelb and virtuoso pianists Martha Argerich and Daniil Trifonov. Airing: 01/22/21

Recent meetings between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev provided hope that the Cold War was coming to an end, and Horowitz’ return to Russia was seen as a way to help open the door between the two superpowers.

The concerts marked the first time in years that one of the world’s leading romantic pianists performed live on stage. Horowitz put together a demanding program featuring works by leading classical composers Scarlatti, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Schubert, Liszt, and Chopin, selected for their private meaning to him. "The Magic of Horowitz" spotlights this magnificent and historic performance.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Photofest

Singer Maria Callas (c. 1958)

Watch On Your Schedule:

The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including pbs.org and the PBS Video App, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast.

Extend your viewing window with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn how to activate your benefit now.

Join The Conversation:

GREAT PERFORMANCES is on Facebook, and you can follow @GPerfPBS on Twitter. #GreatPerformancesPBS

Credits:

GREAT PERFORMANCES is produced by THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. John Walker is senior producer, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer. “The Magic of Callas” and “The Magic of Horowitz” are productions of Sounding Images in co-production with C Major Entertainment and ZDF/ARTE. Produced by Claus Wischmann, "The Magic of Callas" is directed by Holger Preusse; "The Magic of Horowitz" is co-directed by Preusse and Philipp Quiring.

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