Dame Margot Doubles on ‘Great Performances,’ Video

It’s not unusual, says veteran television producer Jac Venza, for programs seen on his highly successful series, “Great Performances,” to appear on the home-video market up to six months before they are seen on the PBS series.

A case in point: the 90-minute video biography, “The Margot Fonteyn Story,” due on PBS Feb. 16, which has been available since early fall in the Home Vision fine-arts video catalogue.

There is no conflict here, Venza says. “We are partners with the people who produce programs like this biography, which was funded mostly in Great Britain.

“Let’s be honest. We in public broadcasting are tremendously underfinanced. And, in the present climate of government support in this country, we (“Great Performances,” funded in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts) can seldom find more than 50% funding for any new project. We depend on others to do it.”


Those who buy home-video products and those who watch PBS, Venza says, are often the same people. Or should be. “Our job at ‘Great Performances’ is to get the arts out to people. Any way we can do that makes sense.”

Harry Forbes, a spokesman for PBS in New York City, confirmed that there never has been exclusivity between PBS shows and video products. “It’s what happens. There’s nothing shady about it, it’s just a fact,” Forbes said, referring to films and other cultural programming appearing almost simultaneously in stores and on television. He added, “Of course, it takes longer to get things into the stores than on the air, so they may turn up earlier in the stores. But it works both ways . . . “

Produced and directed by Patricia Foy, the program tells the story of Dame Margot’s career in performance clips and in interviews with the legendary ballerina (just before her 70th birthday, last May). Also in interviews with, among others, Ninette de Valois, Rudolf Nureyev, Sir Robert Helpmann and Frederick Ashton.

A spokesman for PBS said that the “Great Performances” series had aired programs that were previously available on the home-video market.


COMPOSERS: Sir Michael Tippett, who celebrated his 85th birthday Jan. 2, has spent much time in the United States this season. In October, he attended the world premiere of his latest opera, “New Year,” in Houston. Then, at the beginning of this month, the British composer was feted in a weeklong celebration by the Pittsburgh Symphony, during which his “A Mask of Time,” for voices and instruments, was given three times under the direction of Andrew Davis. And four times last week, the San Francisco Symphony gave the world premiere of a full-orchestra suite from “New Year,” led by guest conductor Muhai Tang. Tippett attended the Bay Area performances. . . . Performances of specially commissioned works by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Ned Rorem are scheduled during the 18th summer season of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, July 8-Aug. 20. . . . Major works by Lukas Foss, Andrzej Panufnik, Toru Takemitsu, Ned Rorem, Rodion Shchedrin, Sir Michael Tippett, John Corigliano and Robert Beaser “will be given by the Chicago Symphony during this and next (1990-91) season. All these works have been commissioned by the orchestra through a number of funding sources.

AND OTHER PEOPLE: Dennis Russell Davies has been named to head both the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. The 45-year-old conductor will take up his new positions in 1991. This spring Davies tours with the Orchestra of the Beethovenhalle Bonn in the ensemble’s first cross-country United States visit, a tour that reaches Las Vegas March 26, Palm Desert March 28, Santa Barbara March 29, Costa Mesa March 30 and El Camino College March 31. . . . Barry Glass, artistic director of the Aman Folk Ensemble, will lead a workshop at the Carlisle Project in Pennsylvania Jan. 17-22. In its fifth year of providing a national program, the Carlisle Project will host six choreographers and 30 dancers at this year’s workshop, which inaugurates a European folk dance workshop. . . . Matthew A. Epstein has been appointed consultant for special artistic projects at San Francisco Opera.