The New York Philharmonic became the most prominent U.S. cultural institution to visit isolated, nuclear-armed North Korea on Monday, and orchestra members said they hoped their musical diplomacy could bring the two nations closer together.I fail to see how the Philharmonic's performance would differ from any other "carefully choreographed" event designed to bolster the standing of the Dear Leader and his henchmen, yet according to New York Philharmonic director Lorin Maazel, it would be a mistake not to visit Pyongyang.
North Korea made unprecedented accommodations for the orchestra, allowing a delegation of nearly 300 people, including musicians, staff and journalists to fly into Pyongyang on a chartered plane for 48 hours.
The Philharmonic's concert Tuesday will be broadcast live on North Korea's state-run TV and radio, unheard of in a country where events are carefully choreographed to bolster the personality cult of leader Kim Jong Il. [Burt Herman, Associated Press Writer]
Music director Lorin Maazel said despite the political overtones of the trip, it was the right decision to go to North Korea.I suspect that Maazel would present a different take on the political neutrality and entertainment value of music if the Philharmonic was invited to perform a rousing rendition of the Horst-Wessel-Lied, yet the irony of politically free westerners performing music for the benefit of a totalitarian dictatorship is apparently lost upon Maazel.
"I think it would have been a great mistake not to accept their invitation," he said after arriving at the Pyongyang airport.
"I am a musician and not a politician. Music has always traditionally been an arena, an area where people make contact. It's neutral, it's entertainment, it's person to person," Maazel said.
Nevertheless, I wish the best for Maazel and his orchestra. With any luck, they will get to sample the accommodations at the (in)famous Ryugyong Hotel. Maybe there they can finally come to grips with the reality that something is not quite right in North Korea.