This morning, I played some music from Menotti’s “Amal and the Night Visitors.” It was an opera commissioned by the NBC network for television. At that time–1951–NBC had an opera department. I also remember when Vladimir Horowitz made his historic return to Carnegie Hall, the concert was aired on the CBS network. I remember being at my grandmother’s house (we called her “babcia”–Polish for “grandma”) and everyone was gathered around the old black and white television to witness this historic recital. My family is not musical. I’m the first one to ever take any music lessons. Nobody played anything, or ever had any other musical training. Despite that, they appreciated great music as well as the importance of the event. So did the CBS network. They devoted prime-time airtime for the concert. I remember the NY Philharmonic’s “Young People’s Concerts” with the great Leonard Bernstein as a regular feature. Variety shows like Ed Sullivan carried classical performers on a regular basis. I remember seeing Itzhak Perlman a number of years ago.
You don’t see anything like that on network television anymore. PBS has its “Great Performances” series which will air a concert or an opera on a regular basis. That’s about it. With over 200 channels to choose from, finding anything like classical music with any regularity is like looking for Xanadu. It’s there somewhere, but you’ll probably never find it. This is progress, I suppose.