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Those who brought art to a wider world

July 04, 2007|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

Because of her numerous TV appearances, Beverly Sills introduced a wide audience to the world of opera. In this popularizing role, however, she was part of a long artistic tradition. Other such popularizers include:

Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977), America's first star conductor, who spent 25 years building the Philadelphia Orchestra into a world-class organization, then reached millions across the globe when he ascended the podium in Disney's 1940 movie "Fantasia" to conduct his own orchestration of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor and other works, and also to shake hands with Mickey Mouse.

Rudolf Nureyev (1938-93), a Russian Kirov Ballet dancer who defected to the West in 1961 and single-handedly shifted the emphasis in ballet onto the male dancer with his brooding magnetism, staggering good looks, fabled technique and legendary partnership with Margot Fonteyn.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-90), a pianist, conductor and composer of serious music ("Chichester Psalms," "Mass") and Broadway shows ("West Side Story," "Candide") who taught a generation of youthful TV viewers how to appreciate classical music through his "Young People's Concerts" series.

Laurence Olivier (1907-89), a British Shakespearean actor who became a matinee idol starring as Heathcliff in the 1939 film "Wuthering Heights," then went on to produce and star in Shakespeare's "Henry V" (1944) and "Hamlet" (1948) -- for which he won best film and best actor Academy Awards in 1949.

The Three Tenors: Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras. Each tenor had a successful independent career, but their teaming for a 1990 concert in Rome on the eve of the World Cup final in Italy -- to raise money for the Carreras Foundation after Carreras' successful treatment for leukemia -- so dazzled audiences that a string of such concerts followed roughly every four years until 2002. The telecast of the second concert, at Dodger Stadium in 1994, was seen by more than a billion people. Purists decried the phenomenon, but untold numbers of people learned to recognize and thrill to "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot."

chris.pasles@latimes.com

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