Great Performances, a television series devoted to the performing arts, has been telecast on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) public television since 1972. The show is produced by WNET in New York City (originally in conjunction with KQED San Francisco, WTTW Chicago, Maryland Public Television, South Carolina ETV and KERA-TV of Dallas/Fort Worth).
The series is the longest running performing arts anthology on television, as opposed to a program like Hallmark Hall of Fame, which presents only adaptations of plays and novels as well as made-for-TV films. Great Performances presents concerts, ballet, opera, an occasional documentary such as Toscanini: The Maestro, and plays. The series has also won many television awards, including an Emmy Award, three Peabody Awards and an Image Award, with nods from the Directors Guild of America and the Cinema Audio Society.
The program's spin-off, Great Performances: Dance In America, which began on PBS in 1976, concentrates solely on dance. The first episode "Sue's Leg: Remembering the Thirties" featured choreography by Twyla Tharp. Later episodes featured such performers as Mikhail Baryshnikov. Although it is not seen as often as previously, there have recently been new Dance in America programs, such as the Emmy-winning 2005 production of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, starring Angel Corella, Gillian Murphy and the American Ballet Theatre.
In 2007, Great Performances began telecasting performances from the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD series, a series of HD opera tapings primarily meant for movie theatres.
Repeat guest hosts include Walter Cronkite, Julie Andrews and Whoopi Goldberg. Major underwriters throughout the show's run have included The National Endowment for the Arts, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS viewers, Exxon, Martin Marietta, Texaco, Deluxe, Duracell, Ernst & Young, Chase Manhattan Bank and UBS.
In 2009, a new theme music for Great Performances was introduced, composed by John Williams.