Great Performances

Great Performances is a television anthology series dedicated to the performing arts; the banner has been used to televise theatrical performances such as plays, musicals, opera, ballet, concerts, as well as occasional documentaries. It is produced by the PBS member stations WNET in New York City (originally in conjunction with KQED/San Francisco, WTTW/Chicago, Maryland Public Television, South Carolina ETV and KERA-TV/Dallas/Fort Worth).

Great Performances
GenrePerforming Arts
Created byJac Venza
Directed bySteve Ruggi
Presented byWalter Cronkite (1988–2009); Julie Andrews (1989–present), among others
Theme music composerJohn Williams
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons46
Production company(s)WNET
Original networkPBS
Original releaseNovember 4, 1972 (1972-11-04) 
External links

The series is the longest-running performing arts anthology on television and has won an Emmy Award, three Peabody Awards[1][2][3] and an Image Award, with nods from the Directors Guild of America and the Cinema Audio Society.[4]

Great Performances' predecessor, New York Playhouse, premiered on October 7, 1972 with a production of Antigone.[5] In 1973, Exxon and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting provided grants to create Theater in America, which reran the New York Playhouse and some NET Playhouse productions.[6] The first original production for Theater in America was of Enemies.[7] In 1974, WNET added The Great Performance, a series of classical concerts.[8] In 1976, Great Performances became the umbrella title and the music section was named Music in America. A third section, Dance In America, was also added.[9][10] The first episode "Sue's Leg: Remembering the Thirties" featured choreography by Twyla Tharp. Later episodes featured such performers as Mikhail Baryshnikov. Although it is not seen as often as previously, there have recently been new Dance in America programs, such as the Emmy-winning 2005 production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, starring Angel Corella, Gillian Murphy and the American Ballet Theatre.

In 2007, Great Performances began telecasting performances from the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series,[11] a series of HD opera tapings re-purposed from their original purpose as Fathom Events films carried in high-quality movie theaters for a premium admission price.

Repeat guest hosts include Walter Cronkite, Julie Andrews and Whoopi Goldberg. Major underwriters throughout the show's run have included The National Endowment for the Arts, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS viewers, Exxon, Martin Marietta, Texaco, Deluxe, Duracell, Ernst & Young, Chase Manhattan Bank and UBS.

In 2009, a new theme music for Great Performances was introduced, composed by John Williams.[12]


Main article: List of Great Performances episodes

Critical Reception

Great Performances has received generally positive reviews from television critics and parents of young children. Roger Catlin of Hartford Courant wrote, "The classiest thing on TV."[13] Ryan Berenz of Channel Guide Magazine wrote, "Annie Lennox brings the house down."[14] Linda Winer of Newsday wrote for the episode, Billy Elliot, "As good as it gets."[15] Marissa Martinelli of Slate wrote for the episode, An American in Paris, "Spectacular."[16]


  1. 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.
  2. 69th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2011.
  3. 63rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2004.
  4. Comprehensive IMDb listing of awards
  5. O'Connor, John J. (1972-10-06). "TV Preview". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  6. "Exxon Gives WNET A $1‐Million Grant For Drama Series". The New York Times. 1973-05-02. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  7. Brown, Les (1974-01-10). "Channel 13 to Air Regional Theater". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  8. Brown, Les (1974-09-25). "Public TV to Ease Into Its New Season". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  9. Kisselgoff, Anna (1975-06-13). "$3‐Million Dance Series on WNET". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  10. Brown, Les (1975-12-20). "PBS Gets Exxon Grant for 100 Classics". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  11. PBS: Great Performances: Opera on Film
  12. "John Williams Composes Theme Music for Thirteen's Great Performances in Unique Collaboration" (Press release). WNET. March 16, 2009. Archived from the original on January 11, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2017 via Reuters.
  13. CATLIN, ROGER (March 25, 2009). "STAYINGIN?". Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  14. "TCA: Annie Lennox brings the house down". Channel Guide Magazine. 2015-01-19. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  15. Winer, Linda (2015-10-22). "'Billy Elliot the Musical Live': As good as it gets". Newsday. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  16. Martinelli, Marissa (2018-09-21). "An American in Paris: The Musical Is Not Content to Be Simple Escapism". Slate Magazine. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
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