C.W. Gusewell


Singing the praises of public television

One evening seven weeks ago, together in a distant city, my wife and I switched on the TV in our hotel room, thinking we might find a program to help pass the hours before sleep and our flight home the next morning.

What we found wasn’t just a time killer but an unexpected joy.

Clicking through the menu, we happened upon that city’s PBS channel. It was a pledge night – one of those several occasions annually when viewers are encouraged, through membership enrollment and modest contributions, to help support their local public stations.

Perhaps you recall, or even had the great good luck to actually attend , the July 16, 1994, concert by the Three Tenors – Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti – recorded live before an immense audience in Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, and broadcast nationally by PBS.

I enjoyed that telecast with my wife and both our daughters. And it would remain fixed forever in memory, no less glorious now than it was the night of the performance.

The program we watched this recent evening in a Florida hotel room, though different, possessed much the same sort of magic. And had we been in Kansas City, we’d have watched it on our home public TV station, KCPT Channel 19, as we did that landmark Los Angeles show.

It was the broadcast of a concert filmed live last October before an enthralled capacity audience in the Detroit Opera House.

The performers this evening were three vocal prodigies sometimes referred to as the Teenage Tenors – Piero Barone, 20, and Ignazio Boschetto and Gianluca Ginoble, both 19.

Appearing under the collective name Il Volo (“The Flight”), they already have won a fervent international following by their stage presence and, above all, by vocal power and sophistication much beyond their years.

The impressions they project are quite dissimilar.

Ginoble appears suave and self-possessed. Boschetto is cheerful, a bit boisterous. Barone looks scholarly, almost bookish.

All are Italian-born, though you might easily imagine them to be lads growing up on your block.

That is until they sing. Then their mastery is fully and wondrously adult.

It occurred to me, as I watched the broadcast, what pleasure I’ve received over the last 18 years from the recording of the Dodger Stadium concert that I purchased as a pledge premium 18 years ago.

That’s the quality of entertainment that public television delivers. And it was clear what I needed to do. I wanted those boys in our video library.

The instant the program ended, I picked up the phone in our hotel room, put in our pledge and our order, and the DVD arrived in the mail the day before yesterday.

I’ve watched it twice already.