Carnegie Hall in New York and La Scala in Milan, the Lucerne and Verbier festivals in Switzerland and, announced on Monday February 28, the Philharmonie de Paris… These are just a few of the many venues and musical events that are deprogramming commitments , close or more distant, of the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, one of the most famous drumsticks of the symphonic and lyrical planet.
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In Paris, “the concerts of the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater and Valery Gergiev scheduled for April 9 and 10 in the great hall Pierre Boulez are already canceled”, says the Philharmonie in a press release. Adding that “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will lead the Cité de la Musique-Philharmonie de Paris to modify its programming in the coming months, in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. » Until his artistic agent, Marcus Felsner, who declares that he no longer wants to represent him: “It has become impossible for us, and clearly undesirable, to defend the interests of the maestro. »
Valery Gergiev, bulimic and fiery artist, conducts all over the world. Since 1995 and his appointment as musical director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, he has linked his name to many groups of international stature. Starting with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he has been the musical director since 2015 (succeeding Lorin Maazel) and which had summoned him to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine before February 28… The Munich formation announced this 1st March that she separates from Valery Gergiev.
Political positions already criticized
In Russia, the musician, honored with the status of People’s Artist of the Russian Federation since 1996, holds the prestigious position of General Director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. He has displayed his closeness to Vladimir Putin for many years and had already signed the petition in support of the annexation of Crimea.
However, in 2014, in an interview with Radio Classique, the chef nuanced his support for the all-powerful master of Russia: “We met in Saint Petersburg, and I saw him regularly at the start of his presidency. I think I can say that he had a real sense of the state, with the will to do good for his country. But power can change men, and God knows how powerful this power is in the Kremlin. I don’t know what state of mind Putin is in now. I would like to know his position on deforestation, for example, and on all the dramatic ecological devastation caused by our anarchic economic development”, he said then…
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Anyway, the concert he conducted on May 5, 2016 in the amphitheater of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, after the city was retaken from the Islamic State by the forces of Bashar Al Assad supported by Russia, had again earned him severe criticism in the West. Just like his participation in musical events in bombarded South Ossetia – his family is also from Ossetia, a region in the north of the Caucasus. But without his international “prom card” being revised downwards…
Pariah of the international music circuit
The war in Ukraine unleashed by Russia and immediately condemned by many Russian artists, beginning with his colleagues, the conductors Semyon Bychkov or Vladimir Jurowski, the pianists Evgeny Kissin, Alexander Melnikov and many others, therefore appears as a point of no return.
It should also be noted that Vladimir Urin, the boss of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow – who had also approved the annexation of Crimea -, signed with other artists an appeal to cease “special operations in Ukraine”.
Valery Gergiev has thus become in a few days a pariah in the international cultural sphere, while his reputation as a star and tsar of orchestral direction seemed so far to prevail over the “discomfort” caused by his political positions. The deal has been reversed, with yesterday’s leniency now giving way to unanimous disapproval.