But the school reunion and a vacation with his parents, whom he hasn’t seen since last year, won’t happen. The NSO decided to cancel three concerts in China because of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving it with five performances in Japan from March 6 to 11.
“It is disappointing,” said Ma, who was to meet his clarinet teachers and friends from the middle and high school attached to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. “I was going to have a great time in China. My parents were planning to go to Shanghai for the last performance of the tour, and after we were planning to do a small trip to cities around Shanghai.
“For me, it’s unfortunate, but it’s bigger than the tour,” he said. “I hope the virus can be contained as soon as possible.”
The coronavirus outbreak continues to grow. The Chinese government has reported more than 28,000 confirmed cases, 3,800 of them critical, and more than 560 deaths. There are more than 191 confirmed cases in 24 other countries, according to the World Health Organization.
Cultural institutions in China, including museums and concert halls, have been closed, and travel within the country is limited. Meanwhile, major airlines have canceled flights through March. As a result, arts organizations have had to abandon or revise performances that have been in the works for years.
“Our top priority is the health and well-being of our musicians and artists,” said NSO Executive Director Gary Ginstling. “In some ways the decision was made for us. Our flights were canceled. There was no way to get there and no way to get home.”
Ginstling said the NSO sees no risk in traveling to Japan for the first, and longest, part of the tour — the orchestra’s first international trip with music director Gianandrea Noseda.
“We have five concerts in Japan,” he said. “We’ll be there for eight or nine days. Based on the information we have, we feel confident there’s no increased risk there.”
The Richmond Ballet had to replace Xu Yan and Li Wentao of the National Ballet of China, who were set to star in two performances of its upcoming production of “Swan Lake,” after an airline canceled their flights.
The guest artists are part of an exchange program between the two companies that dates to 2015, said Richmond Ballet Artistic Director Stoner Winslett, who made the booking last year.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity, with today’s climate and everything going on between us and China,” Winslett said.
The timing of the outbreak, and the uncertainty about its incubation period and transmission, made the decision to replace the dancers inevitable, she said. “It’s tricky. We know more people die of influenza here, but dancers are all over each other, in each other’s faces, touching. The right decision was for them to stay safe.”
Luckily, she said, American Ballet Theatre is performing at the Kennedy Center next week, and the company agreed to allow Sarah Lane and Cory Stearns, one of several pairs of principal dancers traveling with the company, to appear in Richmond after their D.C. performances. “We’re sad about our Chinese friends, but we feel very blessed to be able to engage these other artists,” Winslett said.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra waited until a week before its planned Feb. 6 departure to cancel its four-city Asian tour that would have taken the company to Seoul; Taipei, Taiwan, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
The venues in Shanghai and Hong Kong had been closed, “so what we were grappling with was do we go all the way to Asia for four concerts,” said BSO president and chief executive Mark Volpe, who noted that the orchestra had sold-out performances in Taipei and Seoul. “We decided not to take any chances with our party’s well-being.”
Their disappointment is softened by the fact that another Asian tour is in the works for 2022, he said.
For clarinetist Ma, the sadness about the shortened tour is overshadowed by his worry for his friends and family. He speaks by phone daily with his parents, who live in Hengyang in Hunan province, about 320 miles from Wuhan, the center of the outbreak.
“They are doctors, retired doctors. They think the Chinese [will] contain the virus,” he said. “But I pray for them every day.”