Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Julie Andrews Bows Out of PBS New Year's Special; Paula Zahn Steps In


News veteran Paula Zahn will cover for stage and screen legend Julie Andrews as host of the festive annual New Year's celebration with the Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst from Vienna's Musikverein.

Regarding her absence from this year's broadcast, Andrews explained, "My husband is having some health issues and my obligation is to stay in L.A. at this time. It is with regrets that I must take a ‘rain check' this year and I appreciate Paula Zahn's generosity for stepping in."

From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration 2011, featuring the much-loved melodies of the Strauss Family, will air Saturday, January 1 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Great Performances is a production of THIRTEEN for WNET.ORG, one of America's most prolific and respected public media providers.

The venerable concert is the largest world-wide event in classical music reaching over a billion people annually through radio and television in 72 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 has been a Great Performances tradition on PBS since 1985.)
"I don't know which is the greater honor: being able to fill in for the great Julie Andrews for whom I have such admiration, or taking part in this glorious musical tradition," Zahn enthused.
Though she is best known for being a celebrated presence in network news for 30 years, music has been her life-long passion. An accomplished cello player, she attended Stephens College on a cello scholarship, and has performed extensively on international stages, from Seoul to St. Petersburg, where she played under the baton of legendary Russian conductor and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1992 performing with the New York Pops orchestra and has performed there as a soloist many times since. She will be master of ceremonies and also perform at the 11th Annual Gala of the Sejong Soloists at New York's Zankel Hall on December 9.

She is currently the co-host, with Philippe de Montebello, of Thirteen's SundayArts, New York's premier showcase on the arts.

Zahn was anchor of CNN's weeknight primetime evening program Paula Zahn Now. Previously, Zahn anchored the network's morning news program, American Morning with Paula Zahn, which she helped launch in the fall of 2001. Before joining CNN Zahn spent 10 years at CBS News, where she co-hosted CBS This Morning and anchored the CBS Evening News Saturday Edition. Zahn also worked for ABC News where she was the news anchor at Good Morning America.

Throughout her career, Zahn has interviewed dignitaries and newsmakers, including former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, Cuban President Fidel Castro, former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael, and human rights activist Winnie Mandela.

Zahn has won seven Emmy Awards, the National Commission of Working Women Broadcasting Award and an AWRT Award for reporting on gender bias in education. In addition to SundayArts, Zahn hosts On the Case with Paula Zahn for the Investigation Discovery channel. As is customary with these broadcasts, the camera will utilize several opulent locations in the Musikverein hall itself, and venture outside the hall to visit myriad picturesque Vienna landmarks, including:

· Franz Liszt's living room on the anniversary of the composer's birth and a performance of his "Mephisto Waltz I"

· the splendid Winter Riding School in the Hofburg Palace, home of the famed Lipizzaner Stallions, leading into the Johann Strauss' "Spanish March"

· the former Lobkovitz Palace, and now the Austrian Theatre Museum, where Beethoven's "Eroica Symphony" was first played, for a tribute to the legendary Viennese dancer Fanny Elssler. When Elssler danced in the United States, Congress was halted in Washington during the time she was there dancing. Johann Strauss' "Cachucha Gallop" commemorates the famous Spanish dance she performed.

· the Vienna State Opera, for an interview with Welser- Möst and a ballet set to Josef Strauss' "From Far Away Polka Mazur Dance"

· the visionary artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser's eccentric home

· the Vienna Technical Museum which houses the historic 1888 Marcus Car, a direct predecessor of the modern automobile from inventor Der Wagen, den der Erfinder Siegfried Marcus zwischen 1 875 und 1 888 konstruierte, steht heute jedoch unter Denkmalschutz.Siegfried Marcus leading into Eduard Strauss' "Non Stop, Quick Polka"

· Laudon Castle in the Vienna Woods where a ballet set to Josef Strauss' "The Course of My Life is Love and Laughter" will be performed

And, of course, no celebration of Strauss music would be complete without Johann Strauss II's "On the Beautiful Blue Danube" waltz which accompanies a ballet by young dancers in the Musikverein hall; and the elder Strauss' "Radetsky March."

Chairman of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Clemens Hellsberg stated, "With the invitation to Franz Welser-Möst to conduct our New Year's Concert in 2011, the Vienna Philharmonic appreciates their common artistic work in both opera and concert, which has continuously grown in musical understanding and is mutually fulfilling." Franz Welser-Möst added, "It is truly a special pleasure and honor to be invited by the Vienna Philharmonic to conduct in 2011."
Franz Welser-Möst began his tenure year as Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra in 2002. Concurrently with his post in Cleveland, Mr. Welser-Möst became General Music Director of the Vienna State Opera in September. In 2011, Mr. Welser-Möst and the Orchestra launch a biennial residency at New York's Lincoln Center Festival, featuring The Cleveland Orchestra in Vienna State Opera productions.

Following his 1989 American debut and prior to his appointment in Cleveland, Mr. Welser-Möst regularly guest-conducted the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia. Mr. Welser-Möst was also music director of the London Philharmonic from 1990 to 1996. Across his decade-long tenure with the Zurich Opera, culminating in three seasons as General Music Director (2005-08), Mr. Welser-Möst led more than 40 new productions.
Mr. Welser-Möst's recordings and videos have won the Gramophone Award, Diapason d'Or, Japanese Record Academy Award, and two Grammy nominations. Mr. Welser-Möst has been recognized by the Western Law Center for Disability Rights and is an honorary member of the Vienna Singverein.

Great Performances is funded by the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, the Irene Diamond Fund, Vivian Milstein, the Starr Foundation, Vera von Kuffner Eberstadt, public television viewers, and PBS. Exclusive corporate support for the concert is provided by Rolex.
From Vienna: The New Year's Celebration is directed by Brian Large, with John Walker as producer/writer. For Great Performances, John Walker and Cara Cosentino are producers; Bill O'Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.

Visit Great Performances Online at for additional information about this and other programs.

New York public media company WNET.ORG is a pioneering provider of television and web content. The parent of THIRTEEN, WLIW21 and Creative News Group, WNET.ORG brings such acclaimed broadcast series and websites as Need To Know, Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, Charlie Rose, Secrets of the Dead, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Visions, Consuelo Mack WealthTrack, Miffy and Friends, Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps and Cyberchase to national and international audiences. Through its wide range of channels and platforms, WNET.ORG serves the entire New York City metro area with unique local productions, broadcasts and innovative educational and cultural projects. In all that it does, WNET.ORG pursues a single, overarching goal - to create media experiences of lasting significance for New York, America and the world. For more information, visit


Related Articles

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You