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Pbs And Austrians Join Hands For Star Gala

January 24, 1986|CLARKE TAYLOR

VIENNA — A cultural--and economic--exchange was carried on in grand scale here Wednesday as the Public Broadcasting Service and the Austrian Broadcasting Corp. joined forces to produce a "gala of stars" for American and European TV audiences.

The setting was the Vienna State Opera in the center of this musical capital, with James Levine, music director of the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera Chorus joined by a number of prominent European artists. Among those appearing Wednesday night were Leonie Rysanek, Dame Gwyneth Jones, Alfredo Kraus, Edita Gruberova, Hermann Prey, Julia Migenes-Johnson.

It was the kind of production that public television finds increasingly prohibitive economically to stage. The European locale made the show possible, public TV officials said.

"We have to form alliances if we are going to keep doing these kind of grand scale events," said John Jay Iselin, president of New York's WNET, producing station for the gala. Aired live throughout Austria Wednesday, the event is scheduled to be broadcast on U.S. public television stations March 16, as the climax of one of PBS' periodic fund-raising festivals. The version seen in the United States will include taped segments that will be inserted into the Vienna performance, plus commentary by host Beverly Sills.

Jac Venza, executive producer of PBS' "Great Performances" series, said that Vienna's contribution--in the form of production facilities, crew and the Vienna State Opera theater setting--amounted to about $500,000. PBS provided about $400,000 toward production costs, he said.

For WNET, the co-venture marked what Iselin and other station officials call "the wave of the future" when it comes to mounting costly productions in the face of diminishing funds for public broadcasting.

For the Austrian Broadcasting Corp., known here as ORF, the co-venture provided what one official termed an opportunity "to show off Austria as a cultural superpower." ORF is Austria's only television and radio production company, and one of the country's major film production companies.

"We need to bring our culture to the attention of the American people, and this is the best that we have," said Peter Radel, secretary general of ORF, referring to the Vienna State Opera.

"The major aim of this event was to bring us closer together," another ORF official said. "We want to develop the kind of programming that has up until now been the missing link between 'Dallas' and the Vienna State Opera."

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