Philadelphia Orchestra cancels China tour

FILE - The Philadelphia Orchestra teams up with 250 singers from four choirs during a rehearsal for 'Philadelphia Voices' at the Kimmel Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

FILE - The Philadelphia Orchestra teams up with 250 singers from four choirs during a rehearsal for 'Philadelphia Voices' at the Kimmel Center. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The Philadelphia Orchestra has canceled its upcoming tour to China, which was supposed to happen next spring, due to COVID.

The tour planned for May 2023 would have been its 13th trip to China. But, China has a national policy of forcing people who test positive for COVID to stay in place and isolate for weeks.

“We were concerned that if a member of our traveling party – a musician in the orchestra, a staff member or any other guests were with us – if any of our traveling party got sick, we were concerned that they may have to stay in isolation for several weeks,” CEO Matias Tarnopolsky said. “We couldn’t risk that.”

The 2023 Asian tour would have been the 50th anniversary of the Orchestra’s historic first tour. Since 1973 when it became the first western orchestra to tour communist China, the Philadelphia Orchestra has touted its “special relationship” with China, as a form of cultural diplomacy.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Over the years the Orchestra has forged deep ties with performing arts centers and cultural organizations in China. A performance schedule had not yet been officially announced, but a spring tour had already been several years in the planning.

Although still seven months away, Tarnopolsky said programming commitments would have to be made now.

“May is around the corner. There’s still uncertainty around COVID in China, and we had to make a decision which was very clear to us,” he said. “Traveling to China is just not in the cards for May of 2023.”

Now that the tour is canceled, there are three weeks in the orchestra’s calendar next spring with nothing to do. Tarnopolsky said they are now planning something fun in Philadelphia during that time.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal