The music director of a city's professional symphony orchestra can't help but be seen as something of a spokesperson for or emblem of the city. So Hong Kong has acquired something of a PR problem — Edo de Waart, the well-known Dutch conductor who directs the Hong Kong Philharmonic, has taken his family out of the city altogether because of the severe smog.
The South China Morning Post reports that de Waart has moved his wife and two children to Wisconsin, his wife's home state. The conductor's 4-year-old son reportedly has asthma.
"The air quality is terrible in Hong Kong. I don't know what it does to the little kids who grow up there, and we just don't want to take the risk. It is that simple," he told the SCMP.
De Waart took up the baton in Hong Kong in 2004 as chief conductor and artistic director on a five-year contract, with an option for a further five years. Known and admired as an orchestra builder, he has had successful tenures with the Sydney Symphony, Netherlands Opera, San&nbsdp;Francisco Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra.
The pollution in Hong Kong is becoming an increasing problem: business groups and major companies have reportedly warned that the city's preeminence as Asia's financial hub will be jeopardized by its unhealthy air.
A recent survey said that air pollution in Hong Kong reached dangerous levels one in every three days in 2006, according to AFP.