If you love music and cultural programming, you’re going to love February on NPT. This month we also observe Black History Month with a number of documentary and music specials.
As one of the “starchitects” who rose to prominence in the 1990s, Frank Gehry helped to redefine the cultural landscape of many cities, including Los Angeles (the Walt Disney Concert Hall) and Bilbao, Spain (Guggenheim Museum Bilbao). Gehry’s current projects include another Guggenheim branch in Abu Dhabi and the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s expansion. How will Gehry’s Deconstructivist vocabulary of angular lines and metal facings fit into that august institution? Wait and see.
Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial initially drew harsh criticism before eventually redefining how we think about memorials. Winning that design contest in 1981 was the beginning of a career of conceptual projects for Lin that include the Civil Rights Memorial in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Wave Field, an earthen sculpture on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.
Gehry and Lin are two of the guests in the Visionaries episode of Finding Your Roots, airing Tuesday, February 2, at 7 p.m.
American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland has accomplished a rare feat in recent years—and not the obvious one of becoming the first female African-American principal dancer in her company’s history. Perhaps not since Mikhail Baryshnikov back in the 1970s and ’80s has a ballet dancer had such crossover appeal. Copeland has performed with Yo-Yo Ma on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, danced the Cookie Ballet with Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, appeared on Broadway and on the cover of Time magazine, and is now starring in Under Armour commercials.
Copeland didn’t just leap to stardom; her tough recovery from a potentially career-ending injury is part of the story in Nelson George’s A Ballerina’s Tale airing Monday, February 8, at 9 p.m. on Independent Lens. If you missed Copeland’s performance in American Ballet Theatre: A History, the Ric Burns portrait of the company at 75, tune in at 11 p.m. for an encore broadcast.
Opera fans, be sure to watch Live from Lincoln Center on February 5 at 8 p.m. when Andrea Bocelli, Renée Fleming, 2015 Richard Tucker Award-winner Jamie Barton, and other stars appear in From Bocelli to Barton: The Richard Tucker Opera Gala.
Fridays are music nights on NPT, and this month we are really making it hard to miss. B.B. King: The Life of Riley premieres on February 12 at 8 p.m. and features interviews with the blues legend filmed shortly before his death last year. Musicians Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Carlos Santana also appear in the American Masters program.
February 19 at 7 p.m., Music City Roots presents Americana Music Festival Showcase and a BR5-49 reunion. Next at 8 p.m., American Masters uses interviews, photographs, and rare home movies to present a—dare we say it—Tapestry of Carole King: Natural Woman. King was a 2015 Kennedy Center honoree, and 2016 marks the 45th anniversary of her landmark album.
This month’s fantastic Fridays close out with yet another unbelievable night of music on February 26. Airing at 7 p.m., Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears chronicles Cash’s 1964 concept album inspired by his experiences with Native American culture. The program also covers the 2014 tribute album recorded for the record’s 50th anniversary.
At 8 p.m., Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles is an In Performance at the White House special in which musicians perform Charles’s arrangements. February 26 will be Antoine “Fats” Domino’s 88th birthday, and American is celebrating. At 9 p.m., Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock ’n’ Roll honors the New Orleans pianist who found his thrill on “Blueberry Hill”—and helped launch the rock era.
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