Boston Symphony cancels Asia tour over coronavirus fears

January 30, 2020 at 12:19 pm

By Sean Piccoli

Boston Symphony Orchestra with Andris Nelsons conducting at Symphony Hall in Boston earlier this month. Photo: Winslow Townson

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has canceled a February tour to China and three other East Asian nations in response to the coronavirus outbreak, orchestra officials announced on Thursday.

A statement from BSO cited “increasing concerns” over the spread of the virus from China, where authorities say it originated, to several countries and uncertainty about travel in the region. The BSO with music director Andris Nelsons and pianist Yefim Bronfman were scheduled to perform February 6-16 in South Korea (Seoul), Taiwan (Taipei), China (Shanghai) and Hong Kong.

When officials with the Shanghai Oriental Art Center informed BSO that they were canceling the concert and other events because of the outbreak, BSO followed up with their presenting partners in Seoul, Taipei and Hong Kong, and ultimately decided to shelve the tour, the orchestra’s statement said.

Orchestra president and CEO Mark Volpe said in the statement that he is “deeply disappointed” by the turn of events.

“Though this was to be the BSO and Andris Nelsons’ first visit to Seoul, and the BSO’s long-awaited returns to Taipei and Hong Kong, it has become clear through recent official reports that concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus have dramatically increased, forcing the orchestra to look seriously at the feasibility of proceeding with the tour,” Volpe said.

More than 170 people in China stricken with the virus have died since it emerged in the city of Wuhan in December, according to the latest reported figures. Thousands more in mainland China have been sickened in an outbreak that has brought travel and commerce to a virtual halt across major cities, and Wuhan coronavirus cases have turned up in small numbers in at least 21 other countries. Authorities say the virus can be spread by coughing and sneezing as well as direct physical contact, and its symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath.

The virus hasn’t struck as hard in the other countries BSO planned to visit —  South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, where handfuls of cases, none fatal, have been diagnosed. But Volpe noted that “it remains unclear how travel in and out of these regions will be affected in the coming weeks.”

“At this time of grave concern over the spread of the new coronavirus, our thoughts continue to be with those most directly affected by this serious public health crisis,” Volpe said.

BSO with Nelsons conducting and Bronfman as guest soloist perform tonight and Friday at Symphony Hall.

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