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Conductor Lorin Maazel, of the New York Philharmonic, will take his baton — and orchestra — to Pyongyang.
Come February, the New York Philharmonic will travel to Asia. They'll play Beethoven in Taiwan, Mendelssohn in China, and Gershwin in North Korea. That's right, the orchestra plans to play in Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Four months ago, the country's ministry of culture invited the Philharmonic to perform. (They sent a fax). After the invitation's authenticity was confirmed, Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's president and executive director, traveled to Pyongyang, to visit venues, to meet with officials, and to make a few demands. The Philharmonic will play the North Korean national anthem and "The Star-Spangled Banner." The concert will be broadcast. And the audience will include non-elite North Koreans.
There are critics of the decision, including Richard V. Allen and Chuck Downs, Terry Teachout, and a few members of the orchestra. Zarin Mehta joins us in the first hour, to talk about cultural diplomacy and the New York Philharmonic. What do you think? Should the orchestra play Pyongyang?