Spring has barely sprung in 2012 but the touring department at Askonas Holt are already enjoying one of their biggest and busiest years ever. Despite the squeezing of budgets for arts institutions everywhere, the appetite for world-class live classical music shows no sign of abating, with diverse and innovative programming, thrilling partnerships and positive investment coming from all corners of the globe. “In times of economic difficulty, culture always has to fight its corner,” says Donagh Collins, director of Tours and Projects at Askonas Holt. “Touring is expensive and it’s a big investment that needs to be ever more justified. But I genuinely feel confident and excited about our projects this year, in which we are both building on relationships with long-term, trusted organisations and forging fantastic new partnerships all over the world. Touring is an important way for an organisation to develop a brand; carve a presence on an international platform; foster relationships with institutions; discover new talent and artists; and of course, there is that element of being on tour that is ambassadorial, representing one’s country and culture. It is clear to me that orchestras are still prioritising touring as an essential part of what they do.” Having recently expanded his team to nine people, the health of the tours department has clearly never been better; here are some upcoming highlights.
2012: a year of musical diversity and global reach
A standout feature of Askonas Holt’s touring schedule this year is the sheer depth and breadth of its activities. From major multi-city symphony orchestras to boutique chamber ensembles; from epic symphonic repertoire to elegant song-cycles; from American dance companies to African opera companies; from 18-year-olds to 80-year-olds, Askonas Holt will be bringing the world’s most breathtaking artists and ensembles to Europe, the USA, South America, Asia, Australia and beyond.
Nurturing the future – everywhere
Whilst this year sees Askonas Holt touring artists of the calibre of Sir Simon Rattle, Bernard Haitink, Daniel Barenboim, Myung-Whun Chung and many other luminaries, a key part of their touring strategy also lies in developing the careers of young performers on a wider international stage. Nowhere is their commitment to emerging talent more evident than in their continuing support of the revelation that is youth music making, Venezuela-style. In February, Askonas Holt were key partners in the historic Mahler Project, in which the Los Angeles Philharmonic joined forces with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela to perform the complete Mahler Symphony cycle, under conductor Gustavo Dudamel, in both LA and Caracas. In May, the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble will hit Norway, while the Youth Orchestra of Caracas collaborate with the Norwegian Bi National Orchestra. Later in the summer, the sensational Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra will be back with Dudamel in Europe and the UK, where they have been invited to hold residencies in both Scotland and London’s Southbank Centre and will help launch the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The talented young members of the Simon Bolivar String Quartet, meanwhile, head to Canada in March and to Japan in October; the same month their compatriots in the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra visit Europe.
Elsewhere, Askonas Holt are also behind the San Francisco Youth Orchestra’s summer tour to Europe, conducted by Donato Cabrera; while more established younger artists such as Daniel Harding, Robin Ticciati, Christian Vasquez and Yannick Nézèt-Séguin will be on tour in 2012 across Britain, Europe and Asia.
Old Friends and New Relationships
The touring department at Askonas Holt enjoys the pick of the agency’s world-class roster of artistic talent, and this year sees them renewing touring collaborations with many old friends including: Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim (April, Europe); the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Myung-Whun Chung (March, Asia); the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle (August, UK); the Vienna Philharmonic with Bernard Haitink (September, UK); and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment with both Ian Bostridge (May, Europe) and Sir Simon Rattle (June, Europe).
Alongside these well-established partnerships, the Askonas Holt team is also delighted to be working with individuals not directly represented by the company, including Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic (August, Australia); the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas (November, Asia); the London Symphony Orchestra with Antonio Pappano (February, Ireland) and Valery Gergiev (March, Asia); the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert (February, UK) and a unique new international venture: the Aldeburgh World Orchestra, which will make its debut in July under the baton of Sir Mark Elder.
Beyond the Symphonic
As well as touring the finest musical ensembles in the world, Askonas Holt is also working on at least two exciting non-orchestral touring projects this year: a 4-week run of the groundbreaking Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater under its new artistic director Robert Battle, which takes place in Paris in June; and a major UK tour for Cape Town Opera with Porgy and Bess, which will close at the London Coliseum just as the world’s focus will turn to that city for the 2012 Olympics. Co-presented by Askonas Holt and Raymond Gubbay, this venture reflects Askonas Holt’s dynamic history of working not only as agent but as impresario. “You have to really believe in what you’re working on, and if you believe in something, you have to be prepared to take risks,” Donagh points out. “Bringing Cape Town Opera to the UK is a calculated financial gamble in this economic climate, but we passionately believe in them as a company so why not put our money where our mouth is? We’re happy and honoured to be presenting them in London.”