Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns announced today that Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra will embark on a tour to South Korea and Vietnam in June 2020, continuing its legacy of musical diplomacy and mounting one of the signature events of Vänskä’s final three years as the Orchestra’s music director. Vänskä and the Orchestra, at the invitation of the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam, will perform in Hanoi to celebrate the 25th anniversary of restored diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam. The Orchestra will additionally perform in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) and participate in engagement activities with students in both cities. The tour, which will run from June 21 to July 3, will open with a performance on June 24 in South Korea at Seoul’s Lotte Concert Hall, creating an opportunity to foster connections with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, where Vänskä was recently appointed music director. Tours centered around cultural exchange have become a hallmark of the Minnesota Orchestra during Vänskä’s tenure, with the ensemble traveling recently to South Africa and Cuba.
“We are thrilled at the prospect of performing in Vietnam to help represent musically the coming together of our nations over the last 25 years,” said Burns. “Bringing people together through music, sometimes across unexpected borders, is mission-driven work that our Orchestra is deeply committed to, and we feel privileged to celebrate both a diplomatic milestone in Vietnam and a newfound musical connection in South Korea due to Osmo’s recent appointment.”
The tour is made possible in part by a generous lead gift from Kathy and Charlie Cunningham with additional support from other board members. Classical Movements, the Orchestra’s long-time international tour partner, will serve as Creative Advisor for the Vietnam tour, a role it played in the Orchestra’s previous tours to South Africa and Cuba. The Orchestra’s performance in Seoul will be presented by Lotte Concert Hall and managed by HarrisonParrott, worldwide general managers for Osmo Vänskä and the Orchestra’s international touring partner.
“I believe that music has the extraordinary capacity to bring cultures together and to create understanding between people,” said Vänskä. “Our tours to Cuba and South Africa have been a very meaningful part of my tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra—and now once more we have the opportunity to help build goodwill between countries through music. It will be an honor to represent the U.S. and perform in Vietnam, and I’m personally so gratified I’ll have the opportunity to introduce the Minnesota Orchestra to South Korean audiences.” The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra announced last May that Vänskä would become its new music director—a role he’ll hold concurrently with his Minnesota post—beginning in January 2020.
In collaboration with the Orchestra, Classical Minnesota Public Radio is now exploring ways to share the Orchestra’s South Korea and Vietnam performances with as many listeners as possible.
About the Tour
The tour will launch on Wednesday, June 24, in South Korea at Seoul’s Lotte Concert Hall, a 2,000-seat venue known for outstanding acoustics and uniquely located at the top of the Lotte Mall skyscraper. Led by Vänskä, the program will feature Sibelius’ Second Symphony and Korean pianist Sun-Wook Kim performing the Grieg Piano Concerto. The Seoul visit will include an opportunity to foster exchanges between the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Seoul Philharmonic.
In Vietnam, the Orchestra will perform in Hanoi on June 26 at the magnificent Hanoi Opera House as part of a large-scale celebration of the 25th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations between the U.S. and Vietnam that will also include a thought leaders conference and celebratory gala.
Vänskä will also lead the Orchestra in additional performances across Vietnam, including at the Vietnam National Academy of Music in Hanoi, in Ho Chi Minh City and in a range of musical exchanges and collaborations with community members, artists and students at the Vietnam National Academy of Music and the Conservatory of Ho Chi Minh City, among other institutions. Further details will be announced this winter.
In his letter of invitation, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink wrote:
“The progress our countries have made in the last 25 years has been nothing short of astounding, and we wish to use this anniversary to highlight the progress in all aspects of our relationship—political, military, economic, and cultural. . . . The Minnesota Orchestra’s visit to Vietnam would convey to the Vietnamese people the great importance in which we hold our countries’ partnership. Should the Minnesota Orchestra come to Vietnam, their performance would serve as the cornerstone of American cultural engagement for the anniversary year. Importantly, the Orchestra can bring American musical excellence not only to grand performance halls, but also to smaller communities throughout Vietnam.”
Said Classical Movements Founder and President Neeta Helms, “On this momentous anniversary, it is a great pleasure to work again with the intrepid and generous musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, with whom we share a vision of music as a force that transcends historic and cultural differences. Having now worked in Vietnam for nearly 25 years and admired the varied musical traditions represented in the country, I know that this is the moment to celebrate the diplomatic power of music.”
“Our entire Minnesota orchestral community thrives on opportunities to share and experience cultural dialogue through music and human connection,” said violinist Milana Reiche, a member of the Musicians’ Tour Committee. “I expect, as in previous tours to places like Cuba and South Africa, that our Orchestra will have many exciting and unexpected cultural exchanges that will enrich us all."
Minnesota Orchestra Touring History
During his tenure, Osmo Vänskä has led the Orchestra on five European tours, as well as an August 2018 visit to London’s BBC Proms, and on tours to Cuba in 2015 and South Africa in 2018. The Cuba tour was the first by an American orchestra following the 2014 thaw in Cuban-U.S. diplomatic relations, while the South Africa tour—the culmination of a Music for Mandela celebration of Nelson Mandela’s centennial—was the first-ever visit to the country by a professional U.S. orchestra. Both tour experiences came to define the Orchestra’s commitment to musical diplomacy: sharing music, cultural exchange and goodwill across international borders and in Minnesota. These modern-day visits carry on a foreign touring legacy for the organization that dates back to its first Cuba tour in 1929, as well as an historic 1957 State Department-sponsored tour of the Middle East that featured performances in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. The 2020 tour will mark the Orchestra’s first-ever visits to both South Korea and Vietnam.