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Donald Runnicles leads Philadelphia Orchestra on historic tour to China

After serving as the United States’ first cultural ambassador to China in 1973, The Philadelphia Orchestra launches the next chapter of its relationship with the People’s Republic—with performances and residency activities in Hangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing, and Macao.

(Washington, DC, April 11, 2013)—The Philadelphia Orchestra—one of the world’s most renowned ensembles and cultural emissaries—today announced the details of its Residency in the People’s Republic of China, which focuses on high-level People-to-People Exchanges through grassroots engagement of Chinese musicians in the nation’s major cities and further into its provinces. Beginning May 29 and closing June 10, 2013, this innovative Residency will run concurrent with The Philadelphia Orchestra’s commemorative Fortieth Anniversary Tour of China, which will be conducted by Donald Runnicles, a frequent and valued partner of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Mr. Runnicles will conduct seven concerts in Hangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing, and Macao during this Tour and may participate in certain residency activities. The Philadelphia Orchestra’s music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will conduct the ensemble during its China Residency in 2014.

The Residency and Tour announcement was made on Capitol Hill with United States Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs. Representing a full circle moment, The Philadelphia Orchestra marks its historical legacy as the first U.S. orchestra to visit the nation in 1973 but looks toward a rich future in China highlighted by innovation and defined by its commitment to serve as both a cultural ambassador for the United States and a passionate advocate for Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Through master classes, lectures, coaching sessions, and musical workshops, the Residency will come to life and valuable People-to-People Exchanges will occur between members of the Orchestra and Chinese musicians. In support of this grassroots cultural engagement, this initiative has received sponsorship support from key partners including Sands China Ltd., Cigna Corporation, Coca-Cola China, Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA), and White and Williams, LLP, to date.

“The Philadelphia Orchestra has always looked to its past to inform its future,” said Allison Vulgamore, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Philadelphia Orchestra. “Since its inception, this ensemble has served as a cultural attaché wherever it has traveled. China was the vanguard in 1973 and the deep bonds established during that trip have not only sustained and nourished our relationship with the Chinese people but laid the groundwork for the important work of our Residency. I believe that 2013 is another vanguard moment for our Orchestra. Whether through lessons in poverty-stricken schools, small classical performances in hospitals, or through master classes with our principal musicians, it is our history that drives us to go beyond the hall and to pursue deeper cultural engagement within China.”

Reflecting upon the Residency details shared in his meeting with the Orchestra, Senator Casey said, “The Philadelphia Orchestra has long been a cultural emissary for the United States and will continue that legacy with its upcoming Residency program. I am impressed by the level of cultural engagement and educational outreach that the Orchestra will undertake, and I am proud that this Orchestra represents Pennsylvania so well around the world.”

The Philadelphia Orchestra builds upon the tremendous success of its 2012 pilot Residency by uniting its members with talented Chinese musicians through a multitude of activities including, but not limited to, master classes, lectures, and other musical workshops. Highlights include:

  • Sectional coachings with members of the Hangzhou Philharmonic
  • Cristian Măcelaru, associate conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra, and 10 principal players rehearsing with the Children’s Ensemble in Shanghai in preparation for National Children’s Day
  • Master classes at Xinhui Media Group’s Campus for Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre (SHOAC) Partner Schools
  • Rehearsal and joint concert with the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra
  • Sectional coachings with members of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra
  • Sectional coachings with members of the China National Symphony Orchestra
  • A performance at Picun Migrant Worker’s Village Elementary School in Beijing
  • Career lectures by members of The Philadelphia Orchestra (administration, management, and musicians)
  • Lectures: “China: Then and Now” with Ambassador Nicholas Platt

The significance of this new Residency is recognized by patrons and sponsors, as well as diplomatic luminaries. Ambassador Nicholas Platt said, “I see this Residency as the beginning of ‘what happens next in the remarkable bond between The Philadelphia Orchestra and the People’s Republic of China. U.S.-China relations began with diplomacy, but became deeply rooted through trade, investment, sports, culture, and people-to-people exchanges. That is exactly what The Philadelphia Orchestra’s new Residency Initiative is built upon. This ensemble’s personal engagement of the Chinese people beyond the performance halls and the stages brings to fruition President Nixon’s vision in sending Eugene Ormandy and his Orchestra to the People’s Republic of China in 1973. It wasn’t simply about performances. It was about creating working relationships between our peoples—and in 2013 it still is.”

Sands China Ltd., which operates the Venetian in Macao, will serve as Platinum Sponsor of the Residency and commemorative Tour while Cigna Corporation is the Fortieth Anniversary Sponsor. Coca-Cola China will be a Supporting Sponsor. Also providing financial and civic support for this upcoming tour is Drexel University and White and Williams, LLP.

In expressing her appreciation to the sponsors of this initiative, Ms. Vulgamore said, “I am so grateful to Sands China, Cigna, Coca-Cola China, Drexel University, and White and Williams, LLP, for their generosity toward our Orchestra but more, for their continued support of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s role in cultural diplomacy and high level People-to-People Exchange.”

Edward Tracy, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sands China Ltd., commented on the company’s support of the Tour and Residency saying, “Through our multi-tiered entertainment strategy, Sands China is pleased to present one of the world’s foremost orchestras, especially as The Philadelphia Orchestra marks the fortieth anniversary of its first visit to China. With a corporate focus on developing Macao’s reputation as a world center of tourism and leisure, we are proud to bring the premier musical talent of The Philadelphia Orchestra to the city in 2013 and we look forward to marking an important moment of cultural diplomacy—both then and now—for China and the United States.”

The Tour has several special, commemorative events planned, notably:

  • Ambassador Nicholas Platt, a key participant in first bringing The Philadelphia Orchestra to China and the author of the acclaimed memoir China Boys, will greet and honor seven current members and two emeritus members of the Orchestra who were part of the original 1973 visit. This event will take place at the Shanghai Pudong Airport, which has been built since The Philadelphia Orchestra first landed forty years ago.
  • For National Children’s Day (June 1), which is one of the most important and celebratory days of the year in China, The Philadelphia Orchestra will perform a benefit concert for the Soong Ching Ling Foundation and Pearl S. Buck Fund. Both organizations focus on protecting and nurturing children around the world with special attention paid to issues of equality, health and wellness, and education.  Soong Ching Ling is a beloved political and cultural figure who advocated for both women and children in the People’s Republic of China during her life. The Pearl S. Buck House and Foundation is located in Perkasie, PA, which is a suburb of Philadelphia.
  • Celebrating an iconic moment of the 1973 visit, forty musicians from the China National Symphony Orchestra (CSNO; formerly China’s Central Philharmonic) and forty musicians from The Philadelphia Orchestra will come together for a celebratory performance at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing (June 6).

“In 1993, Cigna sponsored the successful twentieth anniversary tour of The Philadelphia Orchestra’s first visit to China and today, we are proud to serve as the Fortieth Anniversary Sponsor, especially as so many outstanding special events are planned,” said David Cordani, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cigna Corporation. “The Philadelphia Orchestra introduced the United States to China and from that introduction, not only has music and culture flowed but also, tremendous business opportunities. It seems only fitting that as the Orchestra returns to China to mark this milestone that Cigna prepares for its own—our one millionth policy issued in China. This is only possible because of that first trip, which broke the first barrier with China. We are delighted to celebrate the Orchestra’s continued cultural trailblazing.”

Tour dates, cities, and key details for The Philadelphia Orchestra’s Fortieth Anniversary Tour include:

Friday, May 31 Hangzhou: Hangzhou Grand Theatre
*This is the first time that an American Orchestra will perform in this Chinese city
Saturday, June 1 Shanghai: Shanghai Oriental Arts Center
*National Children’s Day concert benefitting Soong Ching Ling-Pearl S. Buck Fund
Sunday, June 2 Shanghai: Shanghai Oriental Arts Center
*Fortieth Anniversary performance with the Shanghai Municipal Orchestra
Wednesday, June 5 Tianjin: Tianjin Grand Theater
Thursday, June 6 Beijing: National Center for the Performing Arts/”The Egg”
*Fortieth Anniversary performance with the China National Symphony Orchestra
Saturday, June 8 Macao:  The Venetian Theatre
Sunday, June 9 Macao:  The Venetian Theatre

For more information regarding The Philadelphia Orchestra, the current 2012-13 season, and its ongoing cultural relationship with China through its Residency program, visit www.philorch.org.

The Philadelphia Orchestra and China
In 1973 The Philadelphia Orchestra, under Eugene Ormandy’s direction, became the first American orchestra to perform in the People’s Republic of China, at the special request of President Richard Nixon. The Orchestra returned to mainland China 20 years later, in 1993, again in 1996, and also in 2001, led by Wolfgang Sawallisch on each occasion. In 2008 Chistoph Eschenbach led the Philadelphians in a Thirty-Fifth Anniversary Concert commemorating its historic trip to China. Two years later, in 2010, Charles Dutoit and The Philadelphia Orchestra helped to open the World Expo in Shanghai. In 2012 The Philadelphia Orchestra launched its highly successful pilot Residency, which united Philadelphia Orchestra members with talented Chinese musicians through master classes, lectures, and other musical workshops and laid the groundwork for deeper cultural engagement, beyond the stage, in China’s major cities and provinces.

Seven musicians who were on the 1973 trip remain members of the Orchestra today: violinists Herbert Light, Davyd Booth, and Booker Rowe; violist Renard Edwards; double bassist Michael Shahan (associate principal bass); harpist Margarita Csonka Montanaro (co-principal harp); and percussionist Anthony Orlando (associate principal percussion). The Philadelphia Orchestra has a long and distinguished touring history throughout the world and is one of the most-traveled American symphonic ensembles.

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Renowned for its distinctive sound, beloved for its keen ability to capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences, and admired for an unrivaled legacy of “firsts” in music-making, The Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the preeminent orchestras in the world.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin became the eighth music director of The Philadelphia Orchestra beginning in the 2012-13 season and brings a vision that extends beyond symphonic music into the vivid world of opera and choral music. He follows an extraordinary history of artistic leaders in the Orchestra’s 112 seasons, including music directors Fritz Scheel, Carl Pohlig, Leopold Stokowski, Eugene Ormandy, Riccardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Christoph Eschenbach, and Charles Dutoit, who served as chief conductor from 2008 to 2012.

The Philadelphia Orchestra maintains a strong commitment to collaborations with cultural and community organizations on a regional and national level. Since Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore’s arrival in 2010 The Philadelphia Orchestra has reinvigorated or launched new partnerships with the Pennsylvania Ballet, Philadelphia Live Arts (Fringe Festival), Philadanco, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Marian Anderson Award, the Ridge Theater Company, and stage director James Alexander, among others.

Philadelphia is home and the Orchestra nurtures an important relationship not only with patrons who support the main season at the Kimmel Center but also those who enjoy the Orchestra’s other area performances at the Mann Center, Penn’s Landing, and other venues. The Philadelphia Orchestra Association also continues to own the Academy of Music, a National Historic Landmark.

Through concerts, tours, residencies, presentations, and recordings, the Orchestra is a global ambassador for Philadelphia and for the U.S. Having been the first American orchestra to perform in China, in 1973 at the request of President Nixon, today The Philadelphia Orchestra boasts a new partnership with the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. The Orchestra annually performs at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center while also enjoying a three-week residency in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and a strong partnership with the Bravo! Vail festival.

The ensemble recently joined with SpectiCast to deliver simulcasts of Orchestra concerts into theaters, schools, and performing arts centers. The Orchestra also recently announced a partnership with WRTI (90.1 FM) to broadcast pre-recorded versions of its subscription concerts from February through May 2013. The ensemble maintains an important Philadelphia tradition of presenting educational programs for students of all ages. Today the Orchestra executes a myriad of education and community partnership programs serving nearly 50,000 annually, including its Neighborhood Concert Series, Sound All Around and Family Concerts, and eZseatU. In February 2013 the Orchestra announced a recording project with Deutsche Grammophon, in which Yannick and the ensemble will record Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. For more information on The Philadelphia Orchestra, please visit www.philorch.org.

Donald Runnicles
One of today’s leading Wagnerian specialists, Donald Runnicles is general music director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony, music director of the Grand Teton Music Festival, and principal guest conductor of the Atlanta Symphony. He made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 2005 and has led the ensemble on numerous occasions. He also maintains regular relationships with the Berlin Philharmonic and the London Symphony. A Scot by birth, Mr. Runnicles has literally returned home as chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony, leading subscription concerts in various cities in Scotland and northern England, and anchoring the Symphony’s substantial presence at the U.K.’s two largest festivals: the Edinburgh International Festival and the London Proms.

From 1992 to 2008 Mr. Runnicles was music director of the San Francisco Opera, having unexpectedly won the job after stepping in for a colleague and conducting two Wagner Ring cycles in 1990. During his many years with the company, he led more than 60 productions, including the world premieres of John Adams’s Dr. Atomic and Conrad Susa’s Dangerous Liaisons, and the U.S. premieres of Olivier Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise and Aribert Reimann’s Lear. At the close of his tenure he was given the San Francisco Opera Medal, the company’s highest honor, previously given to such luminaries as Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, and Plácido Domingo. Other awards include the Order of the British Empire and honorary degrees from Edinburgh University, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and an honorary doctorate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

Mr. Runnicles’s recordings with the Atlanta Symphony include a critically acclaimed concert disc of works by Strauss and Wagner with soprano Christine Brewer, Mozart’sRequiem, and Orff’s Carmina burana. Also in his discography are a live recording of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde with Ms. Brewer and John Treleaven; a Grammy-nominated recital of German romantic opera arias with tenor Ben Heppner; and Wagner’s Ring excerpts with the Dresden Staatskapelle.

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