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Minnesota Orchestra’s 2020 Vietnam, S. Korea tour: part performances, part cultural exchanges

Osmo Vänskä conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in Cuba in 2015.
Photo by Travis Anderson
Osmo Vänskä conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in Cuba in 2015.

First it was Cuba in 2015, then South Africa in 2018. In 2020, Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra will continue their distinctive brand of musical diplomacy with a tour to Vietnam and South Korea, two countries where the orchestra has never traveled before.

Like the previous tours, this will be part performance, part cultural exchange, with Minnesota Orchestra musicians connecting with music students, artists and community members.

Announced Thursday, the tour will run from June 21 to July 3. The first concert will take place on Wednesday, June 24, in Seoul, South Korea’s Lotte Concert Hall, a 2,000-set venue on the roof of the Lotte World Mall. Led by Vänskä, the program will feature Korean pianist Sun-Wook Kim performing the Grieg Piano Concerto.

Earlier this year, Vänskä was appointed music director of the Seoul Philharmonic, a role he’ll hold concurrently with his Minnesota post, which ends with the 2021-22 season. The Seoul visit will include opportunities for exchanges between musicians of the two orchestras.


From Seoul, the Minnesota Orchestra will travel to Vietnam at the invitation of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink. The orchestra will perform at the Hanoi Opera House on June 26 as part of a large-scale celebration of the 25th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.

In his letter of invitation, Kritenbrink wrote, “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.”

The orchestra will also perform at Hanoi’s Vietnam National Academy of Music. From there, it will go to Ho Chi Minh City for a performance and musical exchanges with community members, artists and students at the Vietnam National Academy of Music and the Conservatory of Ho Chi Minh City. Further stops and details will be announced this winter.

Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns said in a statement, “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.”

Vänskä said, “I believe that music has the extraordinary capacity to bring cultures together and to create understanding between people. 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.”

The tour will be paid for in part by a gift from Kathy and Charlie Cunningham with support from other board members. Classical Movements, the orchestra’s tour partner, will be creative adviser for the Vietnam tour, as it was for South Africa and Cuba. Classical Minnesota Public Radio is exploring ways to share the performances with listeners.

The picks

With a plethora of choices for Sunday.

Tonight (Friday, Oct. 11) at the U’s Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall: Laura Kaminsky Master Class. As Skylark Opera Theatre opens its new production, “The Most Happy Fella” (see below), the composer of last year’s “As One” will be here to talk about her chamber opera, in which two voices (male and female) share the part of a transgender woman transitioning. It’s a powerful and moving work, and if you’d like to know more about it, here’s your chance. The Lloyd Ultan is in Ferguson Hall next door to the Ted Mann. 6-7 p.m. Free.

Laura Kaminsky
Photo by Rebecca Allan
Laura Kaminsky will be at the U’s Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall to talk about her chamber opera, “As One.”
Opens tonight at the Historic Mounds Theatre: Skylark Opera Theatre: “The Most Happy Fella.” Skylark’s Artistic Director Bob Neu calls this “everyone’s favorite musical they’ve never had the chance to see” and “darned difficult to cast and produce.” The music is by Frank Loesser (“Guys and Dolls”), the story is a May-December romance set in San Francisco and Napa Valley, and the ensemble is the largest so far in a Skylark production under Neu: six actor/singers led by Bill Marshall and Sarah Lawrence, a six-member chorus and two pianists playing the score. If you know the songs “Standing on the Corner,” “Joey Joey Joey” and “Somebody, Somewhere,” you’ve heard at least part of “The Most Happy Fella.” 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. FMI and tickets ($42-50). Closes Oct. 20.


Tonight through Sunday: St. Paul Art Crawl. The fall crawl boasts more than 300 artists in 21 venues in 10 districts. Don’t miss the special exhibition “We Are Still Here” in the Landmark Gallery at Schmidt Artist Lofts. Two years in the making, it features work by Native artists. And check out the growing scene on Payne Ave. on the East Side. FMI including a flip-through catalog, map, event guide and free MetroTransit pass. 6-10 p.m. Friday, noon-8 p.m. Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday.

Saturday at the Hook and Ladder: Outpost. Live chamber music by living composers meets spoken word performances by Minnesota artists in this inventive concert series from Sam Bergman and Carrie Henneman Shaw. Bergman is a violist with the Minnesota Orchestra and creator and host of its “Inside the Classics” series; Shaw is a versatile soprano (we last saw her with the Inatnas jazz orchestra at Crooners). Led by the orchestra’s associate concertmaster, Susie Park, eight musicians will play music by six composers including Sally Beamish and Reinaldo Moya. Comedian Ali Sultan, journalist Bob Collins and poet Sagirah Shahid will say the words. 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15/20).

Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater: Cantus: “One Giant Leap.” We heard a small piece of this concert at an Arts Midwest Conference showcase in August. What they sang was breathtaking. The men’s vocal ensemble launches its 25th season with a new program that looks to the sky, the moon landing, and what it took to get there. Four new works (including “Discoveries” by Cantus Young and Emerging Composer Competition winner Grace Brigham) will be joined by Grieg’s “Ave Maris Stella,” David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and music by Schubert, Z. Randall Stroope and others. Also Thursday, Oct. 17, at Colonial Church of Edina; Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Ordway Concert Hall; and Sunday, Oct. 20, at Wayzata Community Church. Prices vary by venue. FMI. P.S. In November, Cantus will take “One Giant Leap” to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Pavel Kolesnikov
Photo by Eva Vermandel
Pavel Kolesnikov
Sunday at Macalester’s Mairs Concert Hall: Chopin Society: Pavel Kolesnikov. The Frederic Chopin Society starts its 37th season with a return engagement by Siberian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov, who has been praised for his “spellbinding intimacy.” He’ll play some Chopin, two Beethoven sonatas, and works by Schumann, Bartók and Debussy. The Mairs is in the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center. 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15-35).

Sunday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall: Bach Society of Minnesota: “Mysteries.” One of the oldest Bach societies in America will open its 88th season with a musical journey through the evolution of early music, from Spain in the early Renaissance to Monteverdi’s late Italian Renaissance, the French Baroque and Bach in Germany. BSM’s Artistic Director and recorder player Matthias Maute will be joined by Alan Dunbar on bass and members of the baroque chamber music ensemble Flying Forms. 3 p.m. Pre-concert talk at 2:30. FMI and tickets ($30/25/5; under 12 free).

Sunday at Summit Center for Arts and Innovation: VocalEssence: Divine Light. This will be a close-your-eyes-and-take-it-in concert. Set in the century-old former Church on the Hill designed by Emmanuel Masqueray (the same French architect who designed the Basilica of St. Mary), led by the voices of the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers, it will use music to explore the relationship between the human and the divine. The program includes Ligeti’s “Lux Aeterna” (if you saw “2001: A Space Odyssey,” you’ll know it), Jake Runestad’s “A Silence Haunts Me” and Fauré’s “Pavane.” With SPCO Associate Concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini. 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30).

Sunday at Alliance Française: “Chartres! Light Reborn!” (Chartres: La Lumiére retrouvée) screening and discussion. A screening of Anne Savalli’s documentary about the controversial restoration of the cathedral’s nave will be followed by a conversation with Clarie Babet, the cathedral’s stained glass restorer. 1:30-4 p.m. FMI including trailer and tickets ($15). P.S. Alliance Française has moved to a new home at 227 Colfax Ave. N. It is no longer next door to Aria in downtown Minneapolis.

Monday at Bryant Lake Bowl: The Theater of Public Policy: “Fight Climate Change. Eat Bugs!” Ew, ew, ew. Then again, people ate crickets at the State Fair this year. (Wrote Kathy Berdan of the Pi Press, “plenty of folks jumped at the chance.”) Author of “Edible: An Adventure into Eating Bugs,” host of the cooking show “Girl Meets Bug” and entomaphogist (bug eater) Daniella Martin will join the improv comedians of T2P2 to talk about the dietary shift that is surely coming, unless we all agree to eat more lentils and chickpeas. Doors at 6, show at 7. FMI and tickets ($12 advance, $15 door).

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