Ukraine: La Scala withdraws the baton from Valery Gergiev

After the Vienna Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall held a planned series of concerts in New York last week without him, La Scala in Milan announced on Monday that it would withdraw Maestro Valery Gergiev from conducting the “Pique Dame” after an ultimatum had expired. The Swiss Lucerne Festival had previously announced that it would not be planning concerts by the pro-Putin conductor in the summer. The reaction from Munich is still open.

“Gergiev didn’t answer us, so we can rule out that he will be at the podium on Saturday,” said Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, president of the foundation that manages La Scala. On Friday, together with Scala director Dominique Meyer, he demanded that the 68-year-old Maestro take a clear position against the Ukraine war. “We have not received an answer. We had asked him to also clearly distance himself from the war of aggression,” said Sala on Monday in Milan.

In view of Russia’s acts of war in violation of international law, the Lucerne Festival also sent a “clear signal of solidarity” for the people of Ukraine, said festival director Michael Haefliger in explaining the cancellation of Gergiev. He should have directed the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Orchestra, which he directed, at the KKL Lucerne.

Ultimatum in Munich

The reaction of Munich’s Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter, who also threatened the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic with expulsion, is still pending, giving an ultimatum until midnight today: “I made my position clear to Valery Gergiev and asked him to also clearly and unequivocally distance himself from to distance ourselves from the brutal war of aggression that Putin is waging against Ukraine and now in particular against our twin city of Kyiv. […] If Valery Gergiev has not clearly positioned himself here by Monday, he can no longer remain chief conductor of our Philharmonic.” The Russian has headed the orchestra since 2015.

The Munich artist agency Gergievs has already separated from the artist. “Against the background of the criminal war that the Russian regime is waging against the democratic and independent nation of Ukraine and against the entire open European society, it has become impossible and unwelcome for us to represent the interests of Maestro Gergiev,” said Marcus Felsner, head of the agency . He is one of the greatest conductors of our time, “a visionary artist whom many of us love and admire,” but who “will not or cannot publicly end his long-held support for a regime that is now committing crimes.”

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More concerts shake

The Austrian director of the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Christoph Lieben-Seutter, also called for a positioning of the conductor, who is closely intertwined with the Russian elite. And the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden also spoke up in the form of its director Benedikt Stampa, who put two concerts with the maestro scheduled for July and a new festival in December under the title “Russian Winter” up for grabs.

The performances of the 68-year-old Gergiev have come under criticism in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, since the conductor has long been considered a dedicated supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had appeared in election commercials for the Kremlin ruler or signed an open letter in 2014 supporting the annexation of Crimea. Gergiev, who comes from a North Ossetian family, is also considered the most powerful figure in the Russian cultural scene, having headed the St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater since 1996.

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