PYONGYANG, North Korea — The New York Philharmonic arrived here Monday amid light snow and gray skies, beginning a rare U.S. cultural exchange with one of the world's most isolated societies.
Lorin Maazel, music director of the orchestra, which accepted an invitation from North Korea last year, said he was very much aware of criticism of the trip by some human rights activists, who call the country the world's largest prison camp. But Maazel said that for closed societies like North Korea "we are a lifeline to the outside world."
Today's performance was to be held before an audience of top officials and was scheduled to be broadcast live on state TV.
For North Koreans, watching an American orchestra perform in their country is unprecedented — and politically dissonant. State-controlled media have demonized the United States since the Korean War.
The audience may or may not have included leader Kim Jong Il. He is not known to be an aficionado of classical music.
The New York Philharmonic's program includes George Gershwin's An American in Paris, Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony and Prelude to Act III of Richard Wagner's Lohengrin.
The Star-Spangled Banner and the North Korean national anthem are also on the program, which will be shown on public television in New York tonight and two days later on PBS.