HOUSTON, TX (May 5, 2021) — Music Director and Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair holder Andrés Orozco-Estrada is not able to return to Houston in May to close out the 2020–21 Season due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions, and the denial of the necessary travel exception required for him to enter the United States at this time.
“All of us at the Symphony are deeply disappointed that the current regulatory environment is preventing Andrés from being allowed to come to Houston,” said Houston Symphony Executive Director/CEO/holder of the Margaret Alkek Williams Chair John Mangum. “It’s been extremely frustrating for all of us to be without Andrés on the podium. We have worked every possible angle with our board, our attorneys, with our lobbyist at the League of American Orchestras, and with their government contacts. We can say with confidence that we left no stone unturned, even if the outcome ultimately is not what we want. But we’re looking forward to a joyous and, I’m sure, emotional reunion with Andrés as soon as we can have one.”
The reason given for the denial of Orozco-Estrada’s travel exception was the U.S. Government’s change to the National Interest Exception on travel restrictions on March 2, 2021. Prior to March 2, exceptions could be made for artists whose work supported the U.S.’s economic recovery. After March 2, new travel limits were put in place, and those exceptions were no longer considered.
Consulates and embassies from country to country appear to have some latitude around what they approve under the auspices of the National Interest Exception. Each individual applying for an exception has to do so in a consulate or embassy located in their country of citizenship. Some consulates have granted exceptions to conductors since March 2, but Orozco-Estrada’s assigned embassy has not.
The Houston Symphony is grateful for the support of its board members and government supporters at all levels, including local, state, and federal officials who have helped to try to secure an exception for Orozco-Estrada to travel to the United States. Mayor Sylvester Turner, Texas Secretary of State Ruth Ruggero Hughs, and Senator John Cornyn all provided letters and/or direct outreach in efforts to receive this exception for Andrés.
Acclaimed conductor David Robertson has agreed to step in this weekend and next to conduct the Classical Series concerts, with the program remaining as previously announced, featuring Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante, K. 297b, E flat major and Piazzolla’s Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (Four Seasons of Buenos Aires), May 7–9; and a program of overtures including Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Beethoven’s Egmont, Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides, and more, May 14–16. Said Mangum: “We’re thrilled to welcome David Robertson after being forced to cancel his past two engagements with us—the first in March 2020 because of the original COVID-19 shutdown, and the second this past February due to the Texas freeze—and we are excited to finally see him on the Jones Hall stage this season.”
In-person and livestream tickets are now available for these performances at houstonsymphony.org/2021season. Each livestream performance is available via a private link to ticket holders for $20, and livestream subscribers who purchase a package of tickets receive an additional 25% discount. For patrons attending in person, concerts will continue to have a one-hour run time with no intermission, and food and beverage service will be suspended to eliminate crowding. For a comprehensive list of safety measures, visit houstonsymphony.org/safety. For tickets and information, please call 713.224.7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. All programs and artists are subject to change.
The Classical Series, sponsored by the Robert Cizik Family, is endowed by the Wortham Foundation, Inc., in memory of Gus S. and Lyndall F. Wortham. Livestream of Houston Symphony concerts is made possible by Barbara J. Burger.
MOZART + PIAZZOLLA’S FOUR SEASONS
Friday, May 7, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, May 8, at 8 p.m. *
Sunday, May 9, at 2:30 p.m.
David Roberston, conductor
Jonathan Fischer, oboe
Mark Nuccio, clarinet
Rian Craypo, bassoon
William VerMeulen, horn
Yoonshin Song, violin
Gabrieli/King: Canzon septimi toni No. 2 from Sacrae Symphoniae
Gabrieli/King: Canzon per sonare No. 2
Mozart: Sinfonia concertante, K.297b, E flat major
Gabriela Lena Frank: Escaramuza
Piazzolla: Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (Four Seasons)
ICONIC OVERTURES: MOZART, BEETHOVEN & MORE
Friday, May 14, at 8 p.m.
Saturday, May 15, at 8 p.m. *
Sunday, May 16, at 2:30 p.m.
David Roberston, conductor
Monteverdi/C.Harmon: Toccata from Orfeo
Händel: Overture to Music for the Royal Fireworks
Mozart: Overture to Don Giovanni, K.527
Mendelssohn: The Hebrides, Opus 26
Beethoven: Egmont: Overture, Opus 84
*Livestreamed at 8 p.m. CT
About the Houston Symphony
During the 2020–21 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its seventh season with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown on Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $25.8 million, the full-time ensemble of 88 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s two Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 1,000 community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching more than 200,000 people in Greater Houston annually.
In March 2020, local and state government mandates dictated a full closure of the Houston Symphony’s activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the cancelation of 219 events in the 2019–20 season. The Symphony resumed activities in May 2020, opening the 2021–22 season on schedule in September 2021 with small audiences of 150, which the Symphony was gradually able to increase to its current COVID capacity of 450 audience members per performance. Due to the financial impact of the canceled 2019–20 season events, plus the reduction of sales capacity due to audience social distancing in 2020–21, the Symphony cut expenses, reducing the annual budget from $35.2 million in 2019–20 to $25.8 million in 2020-21. The Houston Symphony’s Education and Community Engagement team continues to fulfill its mission through creative and virtual means throughout this period.
The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Koch International Classics, Naxos, RCA Red Seal, Telarc, Virgin Classics, and, most recently, Dutch recording label Pentatone. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.