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The Amanpour Hour

2023 Year In Review: Humanity's Hope Amid Global Turmoil; Include Or Exclude Fossil Fuel Giants In Climate Crisis Action; Exclusive Interview With American Inmate In Infamous Prison; Citizen Soldier Drone Pilots Taking The Fight To The Russians; Interview With Yo-Yo Ma On Reconnecting With The Outdoors. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 30, 2023 - 11:00   ET



CATHERINE RAMPELL CNN COMMENTATOR: That's a good point. I hadn't even thought about that. Yes. You get to size down potentially.

Look, I think in the near run, we're not going to see as much of an impact. At the household level we'll see a lot but in the macroeconomic perspective, you know, I think we won't see it immediately but eventually yes it will reshape a lot of consumer behavior.

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: Well, one of the things we do on this show is we keep track of all of your predictions. We will see who is right, who's wrong.

We will probably bring you all back at the end of the year, and celebrate the winners and make fun of the losers.

Thank you all for being here. We wish all of you a happy and safe new year. And we'll see you right back here in 2024.


Welcome to a special edition of THE AMANPOUR HOUR where we are looking back at the year that was and what it can tell us about where we are headed next.


AMANPOUR: Up first, from the world at war to female change-makers and the promise and peril of artificial intelligence. How the biggest stories this year will shape our world next year.

JONATHAN FREEDLAND, "THE GUARDIAN": It feels like it has been one of those perfect storm years where everything is just piled on, one after another.

AMANPOUR: Also, this hour, freedom calling. We re-visit my unprecedented interview with Iranian American inmate Siamak Namazi inside the infamous Evin Prison. SIAMAK NAMAZI, FORMER PRISONER IN IRAN'S EVIN PRISON: I know what it

feels like to be left behind. And I wouldn't wish it upon my worst enemy.

AMANPOUR: Then the citizen soldiers of Ukraine's drone school taking the fight right to the Russians.

And swapping presidential palaces for Planet Earth. Why the great outdoors is Yo-Yo Ma's most rewarding setting ever.

YO-YO MA, MUSICIAN: The time that I spend in nature is what brings me back to something much bigger than myself.


AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Much of the news this year was dominated by the world at war. The horrifying events in Israel of October 7th, triggering a bloody fight with Hamas that is devastating Gaza while Ukraine grows anxious that the West is turning away.

Our changing climate saw record heat trigger floods and wildfires, but a COP communique at the end of this year offers a promising way forward.

Artificial intelligence became a focal point for humanity's hopes, ambitions and fears.

And was it one step forward, two steps back for the world's women? Culturally, superstars like Taylor Swift and Beyonce revived economies with their sell-out tours. While Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig brought cinema roaring back to life with the billion-dollar blockbuster "Barbie".

But the fight for women's rights in countries like Afghanistan and Iran highlighted how far we still have to go, something the Nobel Peace prize recognized this year bestowing the award on the imprisoned Iranian activist Narges Mohammedi.

I'm joined now by "Guardian" columnist and author Jonathan Freedland, and by Leslie Vinjamuri who is head of the Americas Programme at Chatham House, a major think tank here, to talk about the turbulent 12 months that passed and the year ahead.

So welcome to both of you. Could I just try this word on you. It comes from "The Economist". I have no idea how to pronounce it but I'm going to try. A concatenation of crises. Am I correct?

FREEDLAND: I think it's concatenation. It might be a British thing.

AMANPOUR: Ok. I will take your gentle correction about it being a British thing. How bad has it been this year?

FREEDLAND: Well, it feels like it's been one of the perfect storm years where everything is just piled on, one after another. The very fact that for example the year ended the closing months, dominated by a Middle East war, on a scale really in terms of the Israel-Palestine conflict that hadn't been seen since the founding of the state -- there's a good argument this is the biggest conflict since the War of Independence that birthed Israel in 1948.

And that was just the last segment of the year. That was when people were beginning to think, ok, maybe we can just make it to the finishing post. So that was, it felt like a combination of what has been a tricky and hard year.

AMANPOUR: So when you look forward on this issue, what do you at Chatham House think about America and its relationship to this part of the world, particularly its strong alliance with Israel, and where that might lead this conflict in the new year?

LESLIE VINJAMURI, DIRECTOR, CHATHAM HOUSE: I think there is clearly a range of views, not only within Chatham House, across the world, but you can see, we were just at the Doha forum in Qatar, many of us, and the call of America's hypocrisy is really the baseline right now for so many voices around the world. When will America require Israel -- effective require Israel to exercise restraint and to really uphold that norm of protecting ordinary people.


VINJAMURI: It is obviously complex, America's relationship with Israel we know, but also Biden's personal commitments. And as we look ahead, I think the concern is, you know, this is a president that has not only got this commitment that is now, as we can see, easing off a bit, trying to pull the reins a little bit tighter.

But the rest of the world is looking at America thinking what's going to happen to the United States? We know we're coming very rapidly into an election year where the president, the sitting president, faces a very uncertain future. And of course, you know, the war, you know, plays into that.

It is not how American voters will make their choices, but it will certainly dampen enthusiasm for turning out. It's going to change how people around the world feel and just in the context of real uncertainty.

AMANPOUR: So in a recent column for "The Guardian", you say the only way forward out of this Gaza war is for U.S. President Joe Biden to force Benjamin Netanyahu from power. Can you tell me why? I mean that is quite a statement.

FREEDLAND: Yes, the way I got to that logic was the only exit possible from this awful conflict is for new dispensation in Gaza, to have new rulers in Gaza. Israel says they will not live alongside a Hamas-ruled Gaza.

It has to be the Palestinian Authority in some form. It could be in alliance with other Arab states. It could be some international arrangement. But there has to be Palestinian involvement. Obviously, that has to be the Palestinian Authority. And Netanyahu said already, no way, that's actually his election position, for election season coming up.

That is untenable. So that is an irresistible force on an immovable object. That has to change.

And the precedent that I draw on is from Bill Clinton in the 1990s, when he got into a clash with the then prime minister, one Benjamin Netanyahu. There was a stand-off between them and in the end, Netanyahu was on the losing side.

And there was a change of leadership, Ehud Barka came in as it happened, committed to talking to the Palestinians and getting a new arrangement. I think Biden has to repeat that lesson from the (INAUDIBLE) --


AMANPOUR: To get a political solution.

FREEDLAND: Yes. If there is any way without a change in leadership, probably in some ways on both sides, but certainly on the Israeli side. Netanyahu is so dug-in with his far right ultra nationalist government. There has to be movement and he already is saying not going to do it.

AMANPOUR: On this two-state solution -- indeed. Can I as you about the next thing that has taken up so much U.S. and western effort, money, support and an existential fight for democracy obviously on the front line with Ukraine.

This year has ended with it looks like support crumbling, and -- not Netanyahu, I'm sorry -- Zelenskyy somewhat panicking.

VINJAMURI: Absolutely. I mean panicking at the fact that the U.S. Congress won't pass even what looks like a piece of legislation that's making a bargain, linking the Republican desire for security around the southern border, to that support for Ukraine.

And right now, that deal looks like it's at least being kicked back to next year. But really, you know, that's been the good news story. The good news story is certainly not for Ukraine, but it is western unity. And now I guess there is a real question, would Europe pass money, would the United States come forward --

AMANPOUR: And it hasn't.

VINJAMURI: -- it hasn't. And again, in the context, as we look ahead to an election season, you know, long before these elections take place, the electoral dynamics, the primary season in the U.S., are really going to influence what Biden does, what the House Republicans do, really pushing the president, saying why do you care about Ukraine when we have all of these criminal immigrants, right -- the language, the very toxic language around immigration -- which is being used very effectively to push back on something, that probably a lot of Republicans support, which is defense of democracy, defense of sovereignty, support of Ukraine.

AMANPOUR: I want to know what you both think about these elections, obviously a whole range of them coming up in 2024. I guess the most important is in the super power, which is the United States. Jonathan, what is the big picture at stake here?

FREEDLAND: Well, you saw there in a way, how high the stakes are, because an American election, unlike almost all other elections is not just a matter of moment for the people in that country but in this case for the whole world, because if Biden is re-elected he will continue in that fight for democracy. He'll be backing Ukraine. Trump and the Republicans won't. And Trump is -- the Republicans don't all agree on it -- but Trump is in the camp that says let's fold and let's give Putin what he wants which is where Trump has always been coming from.

AMANPOUR: And before we go to a break, how does the world look at what is going to unfold in the United States?

VINJAMURI: I think there's a real question about whether the United States will work with partners, right? It's clearly positioned on the two major wars of this year and next year. But it's, you know, will the United States stay in NATO? Will the United States stay in Paris? Will the United States keep --

AMANPOUR: Paris climate accord.

VINJAMURI: -- Paris climate accord. Will it get back into the Human Rights Council fully on board? Will it support the World Trade Organization, or just hold a quarter -- admittedly on an organization that's been stuck for some time.


VINJAMURI: But nonetheless, the idea that the U.S. could really walk back from the entire framework it was at the leading edge of founding together with Britain and other countries, and has supported more or less, you know, it is a complicated story but more or less for over -- well over seven decades.

AMANPOUR: Leslie, Jonathan stand by. We'll be back right after the break with some more -- let's say more of the hopeful news that unfolded this year.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the show. I'm here with Jonathan Freedland and Leslie Vinjamuri to discuss what just happened over the last 12 months and what we can expect ahead.

First, Leslie, let's talk about a little hope. Because the young people, in fact, everybody cares about the climate, and whatever anybody says about the details, how do you see it? It seems to have been a success, the COP28?

[11:14:54] VINJAMURI: You know, the bar is low for COPs, let's be honest, but I would say a couple of things. It is not only the final statement that's good that we're talking about fossil fuels. And it's just the fact that for two weeks, people around the world were paying attention.

They all knew that something was happening around climate. It was in the mind and in the imagination and in the aspiration. And I think to be very honest, you know, we know that many things that are agreed, first it comes far below the bar, and secondly it doesn't all get implemented.

But I think it is the raising consciousness, it is kind of charging and moving people forward, that is really the key, and especially a COP that was, you know, quite precarious in terms of the optics, very precarious.

AMANPOUR: In fossil fuel nation --

VINJAMURI: Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: -- run by a fossil fuel boss. So this is hopeful for the next year, right?

FREEDLAND: Indeed. Although actually next year's COP is also going to be in a fossil fuel country in Azerbaijan, so there's -- a pattern is developing here. They agreed at the last COP.

I think the point about how that two weeks of focus -- one thing I'm heartened by is when you look at polling, it's not just the people agree that climate change has to be dealt with, it is the salience of it as an issue, is rising up.

It always used to be that not only recently, but it's the tenth most important issue, the 12th most important issue.

It is steadily rising up to be the third or second in lots of countries, lots of democracies. It's driven by young people. The young people get older. So the people who were 18 to 24 are now 35 to 45. They're saying they want their politicians to act on this and politicians are nothing but -- except market responses in the democratic (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Well, it's great --

FREEDLAND: So they're hearing that all the time.

AMANPOUR: And young people really have worked hard to make this happen.

Can I ask you about women? As I said, it's been very successful in the arts and culture, and unbelievable power houses, really terrible in Iran and Afghanistan, the Taliban, the ayatollahs. Where do you see it, and where does it play on the international strategic stage? It's human rights, but it's also much bigger, isn't it? VINJAMURI: Sure. I mean obviously we're watching the heroes of our

time -- the Beyonces, the Taylor Swifts, the musicians, the musical artists. I think that even the really bad news stories and obviously Afghanistan is one of the big ones, we see people shining a light on these issues, taking them very seriously, bringing attention.

It is certainly not enough for people on the ground right now, and with this very difficult story, but I think that there is no longer anybody out there who is saying that we shouldn't care, that we shouldn't try and make progress. And really bring to the fore questions of, you know, women's engagement across every single sector of society. That is a story that's not going away.

AMANPOUR: Since you do study the Americas, obviously, what -- people must ask you, hang on a second, you say this about Afghanistan. Look at what the supreme court and everybody else is doing about women in America.

VINJAMURI: Absolutely. But as you know, in 2022, the mid U.S. midterm elections, in 2023, that decision to roll back roe v. Wade, to give it to the states, to vote on, to make decisions, to be litigated across the courts, women are mobilized, a lot of candidates that were running on an anti-women's choice agenda did not win. That is, you know, that is the thing that the Republicans who supported that decision did not anticipate, the sheer power of women that will stand up, and the people around them, right? Not just women, but the men, the husbands, the fathers who really have stood up.


FREEDLAND: Well, in so many of the issues we've talked about, women or women's rights are at the leading edge of that issue. So the American election could turn on this question of abortion rights. And so far it has. Democrats have won --

AMANPOUR: And the female turnout.

FREEDLAND: And the women's turnout.

You look at Iran, the popular notion (ph) there, it is very much a women's rights movement, pro-democracy but it's also about the position of women.

AMANPOUR: I want to ask you, you know, a quick pop question. A.I., did it come out fearful or hopeful for all of us?

FREEDLAND: I will always be going -- to have to say both. But the two are moving in parallel. And in a way what is really good about the fear agenda, is it's forced people involved in this field to marshal a case and start explaining to people why it can be a breakthrough development in health and education. They needed to make that argument, because otherwise the fear can be used to cloud our whole judgment.

AMANPOUR: And Leslie, in terms of regulation -- VINJAMURI: Yes, fearful. Clearly, the momentum is there, the London

conference, Kamala Harris' visit to London, the statement of you know, looking at safety, looking at regulation and looking at bias, tackling these things, the momentum is there.

But the fear, I think the fear case, here on the East Coast of the United States, fear trumped. If you're on the West Coast, maybe there is hope and optimism, but I think it is actually a fear story right now.

AMANPOUR: My producer would like to know whether you would like to be turned into A.I. chat bots and live forever?


FREEDLAND: I think it's a no thanks for me.

AMANPOUR: And is it a no thanks for you?

VINJAMURI: No thank you.


AMANPOUR: All right. On that note, Jonathan Freedland, Leslie Vinjamuri, thank you both so much indeed for being with us for this tour de horizon.


AMANPOUR: Coming up, a desperate call from Iran's most notorious prison. We re-visit my unprecedented conversation with the American prisoner Siamak Namazi, and the call from a union that actually helped to free him.


AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

Throughout my career in journalism, I've never had an interview quite like the one I'm about to show you. In March of this year, the longest-held American prisoner in Iran, Siamak Namazi, there for almost eight years was getting so desperate for freedom, he made the bold and unprecedented decision to call out from behind the walls of the notorious Evin Prison.

Siamak, who the U.S. considered wrongfully detained was locked up alongside two other Americans, Emad Shargi and Morad Tahbaz.


AMANPOUR: Our conversation caused waves in Washington and around the world. And incredibly, Siamak was freed in a prisoner deal between the Biden administration and the Iranian government six months later. So here's some of that incredible conversation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) AMANPOUR: Siamak, it is a long, long time since we last spoke when we met in Iran. And I want to say that this is very, very unusual to speak to somebody inside Evin Prison.

Why are you speaking to us in this way? Why are you speaking out now?

NAMAZI: Well Christiane, first, it is good to hear your voice as well after so many years directly and not on a recording that someone is playing back for me.

I think the very fact that I've chosen to take this risk and appear on CNN from Evin Prison, it should tell you how dire my situation has become by this point.

I've been a hostage for seven and a half years now. That's six times the duration of the hostage crisis.

I keep getting calls that I'm going to be rescued, and deals fall apart or I get left abandoned. Honestly, the other hostages and I desperately need President Biden to finally hear us out, to finally hear our cry for help to bring us home.

And I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures. So this is a desperate measure. I'm clearly nervous. Just like it's odd for you, it's very intimidating for me to do this. I feel I need to be heard.

AMANPOUR: I want to know how you're being treated, if you can. How is everyday life for there? How do you get through the days in Evin?

NAMAZI: Look, there is only so much I'm comfortable saying on CNN about this.


NAMAZI: But I think the short answer is that I've always been made to feel that my very humanity has been taken away from me, not just my freedom.

Today, I'm in the general ward now. The situation in the general ward is far better than the corner of hell that I used to be in, in the detention center. It's far from a pleasant place to be in, but everything becomes relative. It is still extremely difficult to bear the very basic fact that I'm denied many of the rights of a prisoner, because I'm a hostage.

I want to say that my situation today is very different than the first 27 months of my arrest when I was still being held at a detention center. There, my situation was really precarious. I did not feel safe at all.

And I want to mention that the Obama administration knew exactly, exactly how unsafe I was. I made sure of that. At that point, it seemed my captors had made it their mission to strip me of any semblance of human dignity. I spent months caged. I spent months caged in a solitary cell that was the size of a closet. Sleeping on the floor. Being fed like a dog from under the door. And honestly, that was the least of my troubles. I, to this day -- I'm

sorry, I didn't realize this was going to happen.

AMANPOUR: Siamak, you are under extreme duress.

NAMAZI: I'm really sorry, it's so hard for me. I suppose the positive is someday some therapist is going to make a good bit of money out of it.

I would really appreciate it if I can also, if I could also get a chance to address the president directly.

AMANPOUR: Go ahead.

NAMAZI: Honestly, I'm needing to be heard at this time. I'm taking this risk for this opportunity so I hope you give it to me.

AMANPOUR: Go ahead, Siamak.

NAMAZI: Ok. President Biden, I certainly hear and sincerely appreciate your administration for your declarations of freeing the American hostages in Iran is its top priority. But I remain deeply worried that the White House just doesn't appreciate how extremely dire our situation has become.


NAMAZI: Sir, Morad, Emad and I have now collectively languished here for 18 years. Our lives and families have been utterly devastated. We desperately, desperately need to finally conclude that we've have suffered long enough as Iran's hostages.

President Biden, you and you alone have the power to deliver on the Obama administration's broken promises to my family. I implore you, sir, to put the lives and liberties of innocent Americas above all of the politics involved, and to just do what is necessary to end this nightmare and bring us home. Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And of course, Siamak's heartbreaking appeal was heard, loud and clear in Washington. And months later, they agreed to a prisoner swap, to free Siamak and other two Americans held in Iran.

The return home was emotional and no doubt surreal to Siamak who walked off the plane and into the arms of his father and his brother. That happened during the annual U.N. Summit in New York which is where I spoke to Siamak's brother, Babak.


AMANPOUR: So Babak, you know, welcome -- first of all -- welcome back to this program. And I think I can genuinely ask you today, how are you?

BABAK NAMAZI, BROTHER OF SIAMAK NAMAZI: I can genuinely say for the first time in eight years I'm doing great. It's surreal.

AMANPOUR: And how is Siamak?

B. NAMAZI: He's in shock. He's in awe. He's just like the rest of us. I've dreamt of this moment for eight years, Christiane. And I honestly can't believe it's here. I honestly can't. I've embraced him. I've held him. I've squeezed him. I've kissed him. And it's just not real.

AMANPOUR: So you know, when Siamak called me from prison in March, he alluded to his very, very bad treatment, certainly in the first couple of years. But he wasn't able to say a huge amount for obvious reasons. He was still not free.

B. NAMAZI: It is just horrible. It's -- I saw this and heard of the side of inhumanity I couldn't fathom existed. And of course, Siamak, Christiane -- this is a perfect example of how he fought back, with what little he had, to try to get out of that hell hole.

AMANPOUR: That's why this is such an extraordinary story. And I do think that your brother deserves a huge amount of credit for the courage he took to call an international network from a prison cell, from Evin of all places which we all know what it's about.

B. NAMAZI: Terrifying. Yes.

AMANPOUR: Yes. And believe me, the responsibility on us is heavy as well. We hoped that it did not backfire against him.


AMANPOUR: And indeed of course, it didn't backfire. They are all free and can continue their lives.

Up next on the show, the citizen soldiers of Ukraine's drone school, taking the fight to the front lines. We'll be right back.



AMANPOUR: As the debate for continuing major weapons supplies and support for Ukraine continues this year in the United States and in Europe, we saw drones become a game changer on the Ukrainian battlefield. Some of them as simple and cost effective, relatively easy to pilot, and could rain down devastation well behind enemy lines.

So earlier, I traveled to a drone training school in Ukraine, where regular citizens helped make up the shortfall on the front line.


AMANPOUR: Any support is welcome in Ukraine, especially if it appears blessed by Jesus, say these drone students, set up in an abandoned church working on their simulators and convinced their cause is just.

YULIA, UKRAINIAN DRONE PILOT: We do whatever we can now to resist, because Russians wants to feel (INAUDIBLE). This is genocide.

AMANPOUR: Next door, in the construct-and-repair class, Yulia solders and tweaks and teaches. This part is fairly simple and fun, she says.

And did you study engineering. What are you in normal life?

YULIA: A writer and film director.

AMANPOUR: You're a writer and a film director?


AMANPOUR: And now you're a drone operator?


AMANPOUR: We're not allowed to disclose the location where Yulia and the others put theory into practice.

Here in this innocuous looking field, with the rudimentary obstacle course, this could almost be child's play but with deadly results, of course. These are all civilian drones that the Ukrainians are repurposing for their current war effort. They can be bought off store shelves. But this signifies a turning point in the conduct of modern warfare.

A $500 drone that's been weaponized can take out vehicles and weapons systems worth millions.

Software engineer Lyuba Shipovich started the Victory Drones Initiative.

LYUBA SHIPOVICH, CO-FOUNDER, VICTORY DRONES: It is one of the most cost-effective weapons, and it's also a weapon and it could be used as reconnaissance -- for reconnaissance purposes. If you see the enemy, you can shoot enemy, you can hide your soldiers.

AMANPOUR: But the enemy can see you.

SHIPOVICH: Yes. If you don't use security measurements.

AMANPOUR: Like hiding or disguising their signals because the Russians are adapting fast.

She says they're mostly crowd funded, and have deals with the Ukrainian military to train front line troops, tens of thousands so far, in what has become indispensable strategy.


AMANPOUR: That was just practice, dropping a water bottle full of sand. But just a few days ago, the group says one of their former trainees took out this Russian tank on the eastern front.

They can also wipe out artillery positions and troop carriers.

How long did it take you to learn to fly?

Many of these citizen soldiers are women, busting stubborn myths. And Yulia of course agrees. In fact she assembles the drones her husband flies, too.

And a lot of women have taken up this fight.

YULIA: Yes. We are real people and we are fighting for our existence.


AMANPOUR: Of course, supporting Ukraine is not just for the people there, but for democracy all over the world especially in the West.

Up next, on THE AMANPOUR HOUR, musical prodigy Yo-Yo Ma gets back to nature. My conversation with the famous musician on reconnecting with the outdoors.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

Yo-Yo Ma is nothing short of a musical prodigy, born in 1955, he picked up his first cello when he was four, and he was playing for Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy by the time he was seven.

He has performed for nine American presidents in total. Including at Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009 and Joe Biden's in 2021. He's recorded more than 120 albums, and he's won 19 Grammys.

More recently, though, Yo-Yo Ma has been getting back to nature. Here he is, playing Bach at the foothills of the great Smoky Mountains.

And we talked back then about what motivated him to start playing in the wilderness.


MA: I'm a city boy. I'm an urban dweller. I lived in Paris, New York, Boston, you know, and this is -- and lately, I have realized that the time that I spend in nature is what brings me back to something much bigger than myself.

And I'm going to ask you a question. It brings me to wonder, so here's the question for you. Who said this? A shaman, a scientist or an artist. Nature has the greatest imagination, but she guards her secrets jealously.

AMANPOUR: I'm going to say -- I'm going to say it was a scientist.

MA: You're so right.

AMANPOUR: Quizzed by Yo-Yo Ma.

MA: A-plus.

Richard Feynman is the physicist that said that, and the message that I'm trying to figure out for myself is, are we part of nature or are we separate from nature?

And part of what I found out so far is that there are two groups of people that hold old knowledge and new knowledge, and I'm fascinated by what happens when they come together, when we visit those natural spaces.

And these peoples are indigenous folks, Natives, and scientists. So I think that we know so much, we have such capacity, but in fact, so much of that capacity, what is the purpose for it? You know, if it's for, to advance humanity, that's one thing.

Why are we living? What is our purpose? To live, to care for? And what is our, you know, job as individuals or as citizens or as family, community members to ourselves, as well as to the world around us?

If we find ourselves as part of nature, then we start to care for it the way that we try to care for ourselves.

AMANPOUR: So let's give another beautiful example. We have cut some of your performance in Kentucky, so let's see you there, the Mammoth Cave National Park.

What are you getting from the people who you encounter in these outdoor natural environments?

MA: Well, first of all, community building. I think everybody that we talk to -- Teddy Abrams is the conductor of Louisville Orchestra, Devon Hines (ph), the great singer and Zac Beneker (ph), the great staging director, everybody to the park rangers, to the citizens around, to the guides, said oh, my gosh, you must do this, for 1,500 people standing around, three performances.


MA: You need to tell the story of those caves. Millions of years old. 5,000 years of history with people, from natives, indigenous people, to what its story is written in, right in there, but it takes a musical narrative to bring it into the heart and minds to the people who are listening.

AMANPOUR: Amazing, really. Thank you so much, Yo-Yo Ma.

MA: Thank you. Stay healthy. Be well.


AMANPOUR: Celebrating the synergy of music and nature. And there are more of those performances anticipated in 2024. So look out for details at

And when we come back, a little more (INAUDIBLE) a lot more culture as we look back at some of my reporting from "The Amanpour Archive" and remember the outsized openings of 1987. What remains and what faded away.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back.

As we mentioned, in many ways this was the year of the women, for better and for worse. I'm talking mega GDP generating tours by the likes of Taylor Swift and Beyonce and multibillion dollar hit films like Greta Gerwig's "Barbie". They dominated the cultural conversation.

But how will we think of this year in the decades to come? Well today we dig into "The Amanpour Archives" for a little perspective.

A look back at 1987, a time when this new correspondent was assigned to the new art, new music and new theater coursing through America especially in New York just as the Soviet Union opened up and Wall Street crashed.

Let's see how we did.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: $37 million, at 37 now, $38 million, $39 million, $40 million.

AMANPOUR: While many expected the art market to crash along with the stock market, experts say there will always be room at the top for a Rembrandt, (INAUDIBLE) for the very best.

Rare master works are expected to go on drawing astronomical prices on the auction block, prices that could even be considered a bargain in today's devalued dollar.

Take for instance Van Gogh's Irises which drew a record $50 million in New York last year but cost only $17.5 million in Japanese yen and $26 million in German marks.

But what about the state of today's art?

THOMAS HOVING, FORMER DIRECTOR, METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART IN NEW YORK: Hyped up junk. And all the museums are going along with it. It's probably the most depressing period of the visual arts in the last 100 years. It stinks.

AMANPOUR: Thomas Hoving who used to be director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is talking about among others, two of the season's biggest exhibitors -- Frank Stella and Julian Schnabel.

HOVING: Stella has kind of gotten himself into believing his own press and publicity. The guy is just is an illustrator in three-dimensional form and getting weaker and weaker.

Schnabel doesn't know what he wants. He steals from other people and those images from classical paintings really are rotten (INAUDIBLE) to kind of draw.

There's no great leader. There's no Picasso around. The whole art world is waiting for the new great leader to show the way.

AMANPOUR: If the art world is still waiting, the world of music may already be tapping a new source of talent.

Vladimir Feltsman, the Soviet pianist who just made his U.S. debut signals the start of a new Soviet musical presence here, thanks to (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are also artists in the Soviet Union that some of us have never heard before because it's been enough years since they've been allowed to come and perform in this country that it's really a new generation of young artists that are coming on to the scene and it's very exciting to see some of them perform.

AMANPOUR: American avantgarde is going strong on the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

New operas such as "Nixon in China" continue the risk taking that has made them a theater goer's mecca. And Broadway long ago dubbed "The Fabulous Invalid" shows no sign of ill health, kicking off next season with an eagerly awaited British import "Phantom of the Opera". It's already sold out for months.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After that there's a musical movie called "Carrie" based on a very exciting Stephen King book. (INAUDIBLE) played all the reviews, (INAUDIBLE) play.

AMANPOUR: Ticket prices are not expected to rise next year, and efforts are underway to bring them down. Despite the high cost of admittance, attendance on and off Broadway is still up.


AMANPOUR: So how did it all pan out? Well, this critic went onto do other things. "Phantom" lasted nearly 35 years after that. While it did close this year on Broadway, it remains a hit here in London. And across the channel this year, a remake of "Nixon in China" landed at the Paris opera.


AMANPOUR: The stock of the artist you've seen in that piece only rose and rose. A Julian Schnabel work went for up to $1.5 million recently. And after many years, one of Frank Stella's canvasses has just returned to the market with an asking price of $45 million.

Don't forget, you can find all our shows online as podcasts at and on all other major platforms.

I'm Christiane Amanpour in London. Thank you for watching and I'll see you again next week which will be the new year.

So wishing you all a very happy new year.