Young virtuosos going global
The latest hot new television creation is a Hungarian talent show for young classical musicians. Now it is on the verge of being replicated around the world.
The creators of "Virtuosos" have signed a deal with Dick Clark Productions. It is the company behind the American Music Awards. Dick Clark Productions will license the format of the successful Hungarian program internationally.
Hungary is a country in Eastern Europe.
Dick Clark Productions said there's interest in the show from China and Japan. Company executives said they are working on a deal with U.S. networks.
"We believe we may have a U.S. launch simultaneously with one of the other territories," executive Mark Rafalowski told The Associated Press. "There are very few things outside of sports that can attract a multi-generational audience. Youth competitions done right, especially music, are one of those things."
Mariann Peller is the creator and producer of "Virtuosos." She is an experienced concert promoter. She said she was motivated after noticing that few young people were listening to or performing classical music.
"I saw only gray hairs in the orchestra and the auditorium," Peller said. "One of the aims of the program is to make classical music trendy."
On a recent visit to Hungary, Placido Domingo praised "Virtuosos" for allowing young classical musicians the chance to compete in a type of program usually reserved for pop music. Domingo is a concert singer.
In Hungary, the first season of "Virtuosos" was a huge hit for state television. It aired in 2014. Recording is underway for its second season. There will be nine episodes. Each will last an average of 90 minutes, including a gala event. The 81 participants in the initial rounds came from over 2,200 musicians in three age groups.
In the first round, instrumentalists and singers perform solo or with minimal accompaniment. Semifinalists are backed by a chamber ensemble. This season's finalists in each age group - elementary school, high school or music universities - will have access to Hungary's National Philharmonic Orchestra.
Peller said Hungary has deep musical traditions. The capital city of Budapest's international airport is named after famed composer and piano virtuoso Ferenc (Franz) Liszt. The country offers a wide talent pool for the program. She said applications to music schools in Hungary increased 14 percent last year. She attributed the increase to the show's popularity.
"Virtuosos" has also set up a foundation. It assists the careers of the participants, not just the finalists. The foundation helps the musicians buy instruments. It has organized some 300 concerts for them. The concerts have been held from New York to Tokyo.
"'Virtuosos' is different from other talent shows in that we have a mission," Peller said. "We made it an objective not to let go of the children's hands but to continue and build their careers."
Future editions of the program aim to discover talents in jazz, world music, conducting and film score composition.
The program has already expanded its scope. It has included performers with Hungarian roots from outside the country in the second season. Musicians have come from neighboring countries like Romania and Slovakia. Those countries have large ethnic Hungarian communities. A few participants have come from farther locations like Belgium and China.
Hungarian television is dominated by game shows, reality shows and talent contests licensed from foreign productions. That is why Peller was proud that "Virtuosos" was going global.
"It is a great joy for us that a Hungarian format can finally set foot abroad," Peller said. "I am very happy to put this talent show format in the hands of professionals who will make a worldwide show out of it."
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why was “Virtuosos” a hit in Hungary?
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