Carnegie Hall cancels Valery Gergiev appearances amid Ukraine invasion

The cancellations came amid a week of Russian attacks on Ukraine that have hit three major cities, including the capital Kyiv, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. In an email, a Carnegie Hall spokesperson attributed the decision to “recent world events.” Daniel Froschauer, president of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, said in an email that the change was “a joint decision” with Carnegie Hall. On Friday, Carnegie Hall also canceled two upcoming performances in May by the Mariinsky Orchestra of Russia, which were to be conducted by Gergiev, again citing current events, as well as ongoing challenges of the pandemic.

The Russian invasion created a ripple effect in the performing arts world, prompting responses from cultural figures and organizations.

Also on Thursday, the European Broadcasting Union announced that it would ban Russian musical acts to take part in the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Wolverhampton Grand Theater in Birmingham, England canceled the tour of the Russian State Ballet stops there. And the Royal Opera House in London cancellation of upcoming Bolshoi Ballet appearanceswhich, along with the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra, is one of Russia’s most highly regarded cultural organizations, in a country that has long valued its performing arts heritage.

Gergiev has been friends with Putin since the 1990s, when he was the conductor of the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra (then called the Kirov) and Putin was a civil servant in St. Petersburg. In 2012, Gergiev even appeared in a video supporting Putin’s third presidential campaign. The conductor has yet to make public statements about the attacks on Ukraine, but his long association with the Russian president has made him the subject of protests at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera and in other venues. other places in the past, including in 2013, after a Russian law was enacted limiting discussion of “non-traditional sex.” The law was widely seen as an attack on gay rights.

Gergiev is now under intense scrutiny from the international community: already this week he was threatened with dismissal from his position as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, unless the 68-year-old bandleader publicly announces by Monday that he does not support the invasion. the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra joined the chorus, saying it would cancel Gergiev’s September appearance at a music festival there if he continued to support Putin. Thursday, Milano La Scala Theater wrote to Gergiev asking him to publicly call for a peaceful resolution in Ukraine or risk losing the opportunity to lead Tchaikvoksy’s “Queen of Spades” there as planned.

Earlier this week, Clive Gillinson, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, told the New York Times that he believed in judging musicians on their artistic talent and not on their political opinions. Froschauer also noted that Gergiev appeared as a musician, not a politician. But the intensification of the crisis has increased the pressure on Carnegie Hall. Activists began speaking out on social media, using the hashtag #CancelGergiev to draw attention to the crisis.

Efforts to cancel Gergiev’s performance were led by signbusters, a protest group formed in response to the 2014 pro-annexation letter, signed by 511 Russian cultural figures. Katia Shraga, a New York-based Ukrainian-born philologist who has been involved with Signerbusters since its inception, says the group protests appearances by musicians who have signed the letter for eight years. So far, she says, they’ve had limited success.

“We were banging our heads against a very solid wall,” she said. “If we had any answers, they were like, ‘Don’t mix art with politics.’ Our argument is that we are not the ones mixing art with politics, they signed the letter as artists.

Shraga, who spoke by phone to The Post at an anti-invasion rally in Times Square, said politics and art cannot be separated in Russia, where artists often fill political roles as well. While the political allegiances of Russian musicians are often kept secret, Signerbusters wants viewers to know exactly who they are going to see perform. Pro-Putin musicians “present themselves here as the doves of peace”, Shaga said. “In fact, they are part of a huge, well-organized propaganda machine — since the days of Stalin. They are a soft power tool.

Karita Mattila, a soprano from Finland, praised Carnegie Hall’s decision on Twitter, calling it “a good thing to do”. She wrote that she refused to perform with Gergiev at Carnegie Hall in 2014 because he supported the annexation of Crimea. “My action had lasting consequences: I received threats,” she wrote.

Along with their efforts to remove Gergiev from performances at Carnegie Hall, activists have also pressured the Metropolitan Opera to cancel performances by Anna Netrebko, a singer who has supported Putin in the past and who was photographed in 2014 posing with a Ukrainian separatist flag. Netrebko canceled a Friday night performance in Denmark, alluding in a statement to “significant concerns for the safety and security of all involved” in Ukraine. On Saturday, she criticized the pressure on artists to speak out against the invasion, writing on Instagram: “Forcing artists, or any public figure, to express their political views in public and denounce their homeland n is not fair.

As the conflict in Ukraine continues, more and more Russian artists and cultural organizations rely on the Kremlin’s decisions. On Thursday, Elena Kovalskaya, director of the Moscow State Theater and Cultural Center, resigned in protest of the invasion, write on facebook that, “It is impossible to work for a murderer and collect a salary from him.” the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow announced Saturday that he would stop working on the exhibits until “the human and political tragedy unfolding in Ukraine has ceased”, adding that the institution “cannot sustain the illusion of normality when such events unfold produce”.

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