Gergiev, friend of Putin, absent from the American tour of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra

NEW YORK (AP) — Valery Gergiev, a conductor close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, will not conduct the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on a five-concert U.S. tour that kicks off at Carnegie Hall Friday night.

The 68-year-old Russian conductor is musical director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, of the White Nights Festival and chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. He received the Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation award which Putin revived in 2013 and has often expressed his support for Putin, who has been widely condemned for ordering an invasion of Ukraine that began on Thursday.

“This change has been made due to recent world events,” Carnegie Hall spokeswoman Synneve Carlino said.

Ron Boling, a spokesman for the orchestra, said the Philharmonic would not comment when asked if the decision was made by the orchestra, Gergiev or Carnegie.

The move came after Milan’s famed Teatro alla Scala sent a letter to Gergiev asking him to make a clear statement in support of a peaceful resolution in Ukraine or he wouldn’t be allowed to return to complete his engagement by conducting. The Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky. .”

Gergiev was mildly challenged by the audience during a performance on Wednesday night, but that changed dramatically with the overnight Russian invasion, theater spokesman Paolo Besana said. He is then due to appear in Milan on March 5.

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, who is the president of La Scala, said the request was made because Gergiev had repeatedly stated his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We ask him to take a clear position against this invasion, and in the event that he does not do so, we are forced to give up the collaboration,” Sala said. “It is clear that culture can go to other levels, but in the face of such a situation, we must act.”

Online posts in recent days had promised demonstrations at Carnegie Hall, where Gergiev was to lead the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The orchestra then travels to Hayes Hall in Naples, Florida, for performances on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Metropolitan Opera Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will replace Gergiev for the Carnegie concerts, creating a busy schedule before Nézet-Séguin conducts the Met premiere of the original French version of Verdi’s “Don Carlos” in a performance five o’clock Monday evening.

Russian pianist Denis Matsuev will not perform as scheduled on Friday. In 2014, Matsuev said he supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Vienna said weekend schedules would remain unchanged and a soloist would be announced along with a conductor for the concerts in Florida.

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