Orchestras Feel Pinch

The global economic downturn has put the kibosh on several Asian tours by Western orchestras.

Korean conductor Chung Myung-whun was supposed to lead the Radio France Philharmonic for a tour of Korea, Japan and China starting in April but it was called off, as was an Asian tour by the Vienna Symphony slated for the end of the year.

The Cincinnati Symphony, which is having serious financial difficulties that have led to salary cuts for orchestra members, has canceled the Korea and Taiwan legs of its upcoming tour but decided to go ahead with the Japan portion.

Also, a Korea stop in May for the Pittsburgh Symphony was nixed after sponsors pulled out.

Foreign orchestra performances could count on Korean corporate sponsorship and high ticket sales until recently, according to the Korea Times.

The main problem now is the exchange rate, which raises the performance fees and expenses for air travel and accommodations. Last fall, organizers for Korean performances by La Scala Opera Theater Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic lost money despite very good ticket sales.

The exchange rate is more advantageous for Japanese companies, but that didn’t seem to help longtime classical music promoter Music Leben, which filed for bankruptcy in January.

The company had several tours of foreign artists lined up for 2009, including the Slovakian State Opera. All have been canceled.