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Russian conductor Valery Gergiev loses manager and bookings over refusal to denounce Ukraine invasion

By | Published on Monday 28 February 2022

Valery Gergiev

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has been dropped by his management and from upcoming performances in Europe and the US over his failure to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The friend and long-time supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin has so far issued no statement on the war.

Gergiev had been represented by Munich-based manager Marcus Felsner since December 2020. However, in a statement yesterday, Felsner said: “In the light of the criminal war waged by the Russian regime against the democratic and independent nation of Ukraine, and against the European open society as a whole, it has become impossible for us, and clearly unwelcome, to defend the interests of Maestro Gergiev”.

Felsner called Gergiev “the greatest conductor alive and an extraordinary human being with a profound sense of decency” and said that dropping him as a client was “the saddest day of my professional life”. Nonetheless, he said that he had no choice because Gergiev “will not, or cannot, publicly end his long-expressed support for a regime that has come to commit such crimes”.

The move from Felsner came a day before a deadline set by Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala for Gergiev to denounce the invasion if he wants to perform at the city’s La Scala venue later this week. Sala – who is also president of La Scala – gave the conductor until today to make a public statement.

Gergiev is leading a run of performances of Tchaikovsky’s opera ‘The Queen Of Spades’ at the Milan venue which began last week. At the opening show on Wednesday he was reportedly booed by the audience.

While the conductor was given an opportunity to respond by La Scala, other classical music institutions have already dropped him. Following protests, New York’s Carnegie Hall – which initially defended Gergiev – announced on Thursday that he had been removed from three performances with the Vienna Philharmonic which are also due to begin later this week. He will be replaced by Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

On Friday, the venue also cancelled two further planned appearances by Gergiev in May. He has also been dropped from two further shows with the Vienna Philharmonic in Florida.

Meanwhile, back in Europe, The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, which has run an annual Gergiev festival since 1996, said it would cancel this year’s edition if he does not speak out against Putin.

In a statement, the orchestra said: “In the event that Valery Gergiev does not openly distance himself from President Putin’s actions in Ukraine, we will be forced to cancel all concerts conducted by Valery Gergiev including the Gergiev Festival that would take place in September. More information about the actual decision will follow as soon as possible”.

Gergiev is music director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. He is also the former principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. He has been a vocal supporter and friend of Vladimir Putin since the 1990s, when the now Russian president began his political career.

He has publicly supported Putin many times, including backing the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and appearing in a television ad for Putin’s presidential campaign in 2012.