Great Performances | From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2014
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Watch Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 8pm on WMHT TV.

Stage and screen legend Julie Andrews returns for the fifth time to host the festive annual New Year’s celebration with the Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Daniel Barenboim from Vienna’s Musikverein.

Following his successful leadership of the beloved event in 2009, Daniel Barenboim has been invited for the second time by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra to conduct the traditional New Year’s Concert on the 25th anniversary of their musical collaboration with the General Music Director of the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden.

The City Palace (Stadtpalais Liechtenstein), which has returned to all its former glory after extensive renovation, provides the setting for both of the Vienna State Ballet’s ballet interludes. In charge of the choreography, as he was last year, is Ashley Page. One of the highlights of this year’s concert will be Vivienne Westwood’s costume designs for the dancers.

Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, one of America’s most prolific and respected public media providers. For 50 years, THIRTEEN has been making the most of the rich resources and passionate people of New York and the world, reaching millions of people with on-air and online programming that celebrates arts and culture, offers insightful commentary on the news of the day, explores the worlds of science and nature, and invites students of all ages to have fun while learning.

The venerable concert is the largest worldwide event in classical music reaching millions of people annually through radio and television in over 80 countries. The Vienna Philharmonic’s traditional New Year’s program has showcased Viennese musical culture at the highest level, and since the first television broadcast in 1959, sent the world a New Year’s greeting in the spirit of hope, friendship and peace. (The telecast marks the 30th broadcast of the event on PBS.)

Andrews’ celebrating the New Year in Vienna continues to be a cherished tradition for viewers and the beloved singer, actress, and author herself. “As often as I’ve come to this simply gorgeous city, its beauty and charms enchant me as they did the very first time. Each year, I find myself quite swept away by Vienna’s extraordinary beauty, and the luscious melodies of the Strauss family and their contemporaries.”

She has been a frequent and luminous presence on Great Performances, starting with “An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner” (1989); “Julie Andrews in Concert” (1990); “Some Enchanted Evening: Celebrating Oscar Hammerstein II” (1995); “Back on Broadway” which spotlighted her return to the Great White Way in Victor/Victoria (1995); “Hey, Mr. Producer! The Musical World of Cameron Mackintosh” (1998); “My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies” (1999); its follow-up “My Favorite Broadway: The Love Songs” (2001); and the restoration of the classic 1957 “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” (2004). She also hosted the Emmy Award-winning series Broadway: The American Musical in 2004. Andrews was recently featured in the “Great Performances’ 40th Anniversary Celebration(2013).

As is customary with these broadcasts, Andrews will travel from her home base in the Musikverein hall itself to visit multiple picturesque Vienna landmarks: the Sigmund Freud Museum, the Porcelain Museum in the Augarten, the 900-year-old Klosterneuburg Abbey and the Liechtenstein City Palace.

Daniel Barenboim last conducted the New Year’s Concert in 2009. The Argentinian, honorary Palestinian citizen and Berlin resident turned 70 last year and celebrated his 60th stage anniversary. Alongside numerous tour performances as pianist and conductor with prestigious orchestras, Barenboim holds other full time high-ranking positions such as General Music Director of the State Opera Unter den Linden, Musical Director of Milan’s La Scala and his West-Eastern-Divan Orchestra.

Born on November 15, 1942, the grandchild of Russian immigrants, Barenboim has had many identities during his career. “I am neither a Jew nor an Argentinian, or a musician living in Germany. A modern human being defines himself, above all, through the possibility to have several identities,” he once said in an interview. “When I conduct a Bruckner Symphony, I consciously or unconsciously become a central European. And when I play a tango on the piano, I’m an Argentinian.” In any case, today Barenboim holds Argentinian, Israeli, Spanish and the symbolic Palestinian nationality.

The Vienna State Ballet is directed by Manuel Legris. It provides the ensembles at both the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Volksoper.