Julie Andrews again hosts Vienna holiday concert for PBS
By Jay Bobbin
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, 9:15 p.m.
Julie Andrews in Austria: hardly an unfamiliar sight, both in movie history and now on New Year's Day.
The Oscar, Emmy and Grammy winner filmed one of her most famous roles in that country, Maria in the 1965 screen classic “The Sound of Music.” Along with her elegant and cultured image, that made her a natural to succeed the late Walter Cronkite as host of PBS' traditional “Great Performances” broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic's holiday concert, and she'll fill that role for the fourth time when “From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2013” airs Tuesday.
“I love doing it,” the ever-gracious Andrews says of the special staged at the internationally renowned Musikverein. “The PBS people are very nice, they do this with class and style, and we do something different every year. It's always a learning curve for me, going to new places and finding out about them. And of course, the music is lovely.”
The program's soundtrack always includes a generous dose of compositions by the Strauss family, conducted this time by Franz Welser-Most, current musical director of the Vienna State Opera. On the bill are such all-time favorites as “The Blue Danube Waltz” and “The Radetzky March,” along with such other varied selections as “Music of Spheres,” “Where the Lemon Trees Bloom” and “Runners Quick Polka.”
“It's always a surprise,” Andrews notes of each year's musical menu, “and I'm amazed at how much. There are the Strausses, then there will be Haydn or somebody else whose anniversary it is, or something by Mozart will be put in.
“But Strauss? Oh, my. When I was very, very young and in vaudeville, I would belt out those numbers and do all the coverage lyrically. If you want to go online and have one hoot of a laugh, I think my doing “The Blue Danube” at age 15 is there. It's just out of the stratosphere, and I'm surprised these days that I ever managed it.” (Hear it for yourself on YouTube.)
Since assuming the hosting duties of the New Year's Day concert, Andrews has been absent once — in 2011, when she was mourning the death of her husband, filmmaker Blake Edwards (“The Pink Panther,” “Victor/Victoria”). “They sweetly understood,” she recalls, “and they very kindly asked me back the year after.”
For the first day of 2013, the event will give Andrews an extra job: interviewer, because she'll talk with Welser-Most about the 200th anniversaries of the births of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, obviously music legends in their own right ... and, making their inclusion in the program appropriate, both favorites of Johann Strauss.
“I hope (the special's producers) will guide me toward what they hope to get answered,” Andrews says. “I could probably blather on, but it's better if I know what they'd like to elicit from the maestro. The actual concert is beamed throughout the world, but America has its own version of this wonderful postcard of Vienna and everything about it.”
The stately Musikverein surely is one of those things, and Andrews calls the venue “quite wondrous, this huge and immaculate place. And with some of the castles and churches and museums, it's quite something to go into them and see things like the stone that was used and the beauty of how people must have lived in those days.
“There was one day,” Andrews adds, “when I was, in fact, standing on the balcony of the Great Palace looking out over the huge square of Vienna. And they told me, ‘You're standing exactly where Hitler stood when he came into Vienna.' I honestly got chills throughout my body, to be standing on the same stones and looking at the same scene he must have. It was quite something.”
Andrews considers a real bonus of the yearly concert to be “learning about history while I'm doing it. I'm fascinated with the various emperors and how, between them all, they tied up Europe in one way or another.”
Andrews' latest trip to Vienna puts the coda on an active period for the veteran talent who earned her Academy Award in the title role of Disney's “Mary Poppins.”
While spending the last weeks of 2012 promoting her latest children's book — the series-ending “Little Bo in London,” co-written with daughter Emma Walton Hamilton — Andrews also directed a play at Connecticut's Goodspeed Opera House.
Still, New Year's Day has particular meaning for Andrews, thanks to a tradition she's pleased to carry on from Cronkite. “I adored him,” she says, “and I was thrilled when they thought I might be a worthy successor. And I hope I'm doing him proud.”
Jay Bobbin is a staff writer for Zap2it.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Garden Q&A: Firecracker vine OK for trellis?
- Film tax credits bill would bump up state budget
- Penguins notebook: Stars taking their turns with No. 1 power play
- Pirates minor league notebook: Mt. Lebanon grad keeping steady approach
- Bucco Blog: Travis Sawchik
- Davis embraces new opportunity with Pirates
- Stats Corner: Pirates’ Volquez cruising through innings
- State police: People injured in Parkway crash resulting from police chase
- Biertempfel: Kendall’s book offers inside look at life in majors
- Mail for IRS delivered to Squirrel Hill home
- Patients denied as donor organs discarded