Virtuosos V4+: We did not subordinate our principles to financial preferences
“We did not subordinate our principles to financial preferences”
– Mariann Peller founder of Virtuosos on how Virtuosos became a global success
Budapest Reporter: The way to success often involves failures. As founder of Virtuosos, what kind of difficulties have you faced?
Mariann Peller: When we started up this classical music-based reality competition, nobody believed in it. Nobody thought that people will be interested in such television content. But we pointed out that people watch crap only because that’s what they get. The first show was an absolut success but we had to prepare this production in a sceptical atmosphere. But I tend not to use the word failure. I’d rather say that the stairs to success are sometimes cracked and you need to pass those stairs with extra attention. However, we can call a failure that we needed to deny the offer of Sir Elton John and David Furnish, in 2015. They loved our idea but didn’t want to apply three basic rules we sticked with. They’d take the show to the direction of ordinary talent shows.
The fundamental message of Virtuosos is that classical musicians have a poor media platform compared to eg. football players, actors and pop stars, even though they rehearse 6-8 hours a day and sometimes sacrifice their childhood to improve. It is essential for us to find the best among these young talents and to help them managing their professional lives as aftermath of the show, to find master courses and scholarships for them. Of course, working with the team of Sir Elton John would have been a huge financial and professional help for us but now we have Plácido Domingo, Sir John Hegarty and the Chinese shareholders with us.
At the end of the day we are much happier that we did not subordinate our principles to financial preferences. Moreover, since the show started, the number of musical students in Hungary increased 14%.
BR: Virtuosos seems to conquer the global market, starting with the V4+ participate five countries and the next step is South-America. How do you get ready for cultural localisation?
First of all, this competition is fully open to all kind of classical musician. We prefer the jury to decide on the result and we want the competitors to be supported by talent managements whenever they finish the competition. These things we stick with. But about the content we must be flexible – eg. a Columbian TV-network is not able to broadcast a 2-hour TV-show. Therefore, they’ll cut it into six days and each episode will be 30 minutes. In Hungary we did an 8-episode show, in Germany they think about three extra long episodes… Opposite to other talent shows, Virtuosos is customisable to different cultures. The rate of crossover is also different – in Europe, classical music takes 95% but in America we estimate 60%. Since we independently merchandise the show, we treat the cultural preferences flexible.
BR: When you started to prepare Virtuosos V4+ it was obvious that you were going to face difficulties due to the pandemic. How did you fight the worsening conditions?
This kind of TV-shows normally need 9-10 months of preparation. We started to work on it in June and the shooting dates of November have been moved to September. This was a good decision but it challenged us all in the production. Origo Studios’ attitude has a great contribution to our success as well as the help we got from MET Group, working on Covid19-protocol was essential. Origo provided us two extra studio spaces as a sponsorship support, avoiding the contact between critical participants. The technical crew never used the same corridor as the artists who couldn’t have been replaced in case of infection. We used a separate studio for the interviews and had to make a tremendous amount of Covid-test… If we’ve got no such support we couldn’t have covered all the expenses. So, we are very pleased to make it true and very thankful for the discipline of our team.
BR: What do you expect from next year, what is on the to-do-list?
We definitely will dedicate more time for preparations. We already started calculating the budget and we’d like to start shooting in August that is more easily available to students. Also, we’ll decide next week of which country will participate in 2021.
Featuring some of the best classical music talent from the Visegrad Four countries of Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, plus Serbia, the series will start airing on Nov. 27.