The music director will take his orchestra on its first tour to Mexico in October, followed by their first joint tour of the Far East in January and February of 2013, the CSO announced Tuesday.
Muti had tipped the Asian tour at a CSO news conference in February during which the 2012-13 season was announced. However, this was the first official announcement of details.
The orchestra has visited Asia on six previous occasions, most recently in 2009 under then-principal conductor Bernard Haitink; and Muti has led concerts in the Far East with the Vienna Philharmonic and the La Scala opera. But this trip will mark their first trip together to that part of the world, where classical music is big and the Chicago Symphony remains a hugely popular audience draw.
During their 13-day visit to the Far East, Jan. 25-Feb. 7, Muti and the CSO are scheduled to give nine concerts in six cities. The tour will add Taiwan, South Korea and Tianjin, China, to the growing list of foreign countries and cities the orchestra will have visited for the first time.
Muti and the CSO will begin their Far East tour in Taiwan, with concerts in Taipei’s Chiang Kai-Shek National Concert Hall on Jan. 25 and 26. From there they will fly to Hong Kong for another pair of concerts, Jan. 28 and 29, at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival.
Then the orchestra and its tour contingent will move on to mainland China for performances Jan. 31 in Shanghai’s Oriental Arts Centre; Feb. 3 in Beijing’s National Center for the Performing Arts; and Feb. 4 in the Tianjin Grand Theatre, Tianjin.
The Asian tour will conclude with concerts Feb. 6 and 7 at the Seoul Arts Center in Seoul, South Korea.
Muti will direct two different programs in the Far East. The first will consist of Stravinsky’s “Fairy’s Kiss” Divertimento, the suite from Busoni’s “Turandot” and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4. The second will hold the overture to Verdi’s “I Vespri Siciliani,” Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (“Eroica”).
The CSO administration had discussed with the Mexican consul general the possibility of the orchestra’s appearing in Mexico as part of Chicago’s Mexico 2010 celebration, CSO Association President Deborah Rutter said. But the plan fell through because of timing and financial issues. This year’s 40th anniversary Festival Internacional Cervantino in Guanajuato provided an ideal opportunity to reopen the conversation. And so the orchestra will perform in that charming colonial-era town in central Mexico on Oct. 8.
Its brief Mexican tour will conclude with a concert in Mexico City’s Palacio de Bellas Artes on Oct. 10. Both concerts of the two-city tour will consist of the overture to Verdi’s “Nabucco,” Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2.
From its founding in the mid 20th Century, the Festival Internacional Cervantino has grown to become what is reputed to be the most important international cultural event in Mexico. Each fall Guanajuato hosts arts organizations from all over the world. The New York Philharmonic has performed there, and Lyric Opera brought a production of Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale” there in 1979.
Rutter said there are many ways such tours redound to Chicago’s benefit.
“One of the ways we can be serving Chicago is being an ambassador for the city as we go around the world,” she explains. “If we can help with cementing a positive perception of our great city overseas and in our own hemisphere, then we are thrilled and honored to be able to do that – Maestro Muti has said that on numerous occasions. I think we did a bang-up job with that in Russia and Italy and I think we do that every time we travel out of the country.”
Already announced is a Muti-CSO tour to New York’s Carnegie Hall, taking place Oct. 3-5, just ahead of their debut in Mexico. A new team of soloists has been named for the opening program of Orff’s “Carmina Burana” – soprano Rosa Feola, countertenor Antonio Giovannini and baritone Audun Iversen. Muti, choruses and soloists will also perform “Carmina Burana” at a free concert Sept. 21 at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park.
The CSO first visited Asia in 1977 when then-music director Georg Solti took the orchestra to Japan. Japanese audiences greeted him as a classical music superstar back then, and he was only too happy to bring the CSO back whenever possible. He shared a Japan tour in 1986 with his soon-to-be-named successor, Daniel Barenboim. And Barenboim alternated with Pierre Boulez on a three-week tour of Japan in 1995.
So, why are there no concerts in Japan on next year’s Asian tour?
“We didn’t consciously (exclude Japan),” Rutter explained. “Partly it was just the way the dates fell. And we really wanted to go to places (in Asia) we hadn’t been to before. Shanghai and Beijing represent a great new relationship we want to explore. Certainly we will want to go back to Japan again soon.”