Jaap Van Zweden Cancels 2021 Hong Kong Philharmonic Appearances
As the Music Director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Dutch conductor will not return to lead the orchestra after city officials refused to grant him a quarantine exemption.
Hong Kong currently has a 21-day quarantine requirement in place for all visitors to the region. Many of those working in the arts sector are frustrated at the uneven granting of quarantine exemptions, given that high-profile celebrities and sportspeople — such as Nicole Kidman and the Hong Kong men's rugby sevens teams — have been allowed to bypass the requirement.
Van Zweden is not the only musician to not be exempted from Hong Kong's pandemic restrictions. Andrea Fessler, a Hong Kong-based classical music presenter, whose company Premiere Performances organizes recitals in the region, had spent the past four years planning a Hong Kong debut for British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, only for the whole enterprise to fall apart after the government decided not to approve his exemption.
Hong Kong's particularly strict approach is in contrast to other parts of Asia. For instance, van Zweden was granted a quarantine exemption in South Korea ahead of a performance there.
“At present, the Government’s top priority is to control the epidemic so that normal cross-boundary flow of people between Hong Kong and Mainland [China] can be resumed as early as possible," Hong Kong's Home Affairs Bureau said in a statement.
“We have all along been observing strict quarantine measures to prevent possible Covid-19 cases from abroad," they added. "After taking into account all relevant factors, we do not consider it appropriate to grant an exemption [to] Maestro Jaap van Zweden in the present circumstances.”