Metropolitan Opera says it will sever ties with artists allied with Putin

New York’s renowned opera house, the Metropolitan Opera, announced on Sunday that it would suspend ties with Russian artists and institutions allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a video statement posted to Facebook, Met chief executive Peter Gelb expressed his solidarity with the people and leaders of Ukraine and said: “As an international opera company, the Met can help ring the bell. alarm and contribute to the fight against oppression…we can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him – not until the invasion and killings have been stopped, that order will not have been restored and restitutions will not have been made.”

In an interview with The New York Times On Sunday, Gelb added: “It’s terrible that artistic relationships, at least temporarily, are the collateral damage of these actions of Putin.” Gelb did not specify which institutions and artists he intends to suspend collaborations, but three of the most prominent that have been actively allied with Putin are the Mariinsky Theater (formerly Kirov) in St. Petersburg; its general and artistic director, conductor Valery Gergiev, who is also the Met’s former principal guest conductor; and star soprano Anna Netrebko, who frequently appears on stage at the Met.

The Met is also set to host a production of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin of the Bolshoi Opera in Moscow in March 2023. The Bolshoi, like the Mariinsky, receives support from the Russian state. (On Friday, the Royal Opera House in London canceled the Bolshoi Ballet’s tour appearances that were scheduled for this summer.)

The Met’s move comes four days after Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra pulled Gergiev and pianist Denis Matsuev from a three-concert series due to the two musicians’ close ties to Putin.

The Met occupies a particularly important place in terms of alliances with Russian institutions and artists. For years the Met, under Gelb’s direction, brought Mariinsky Theater productions and performers to American audiences.

Valery Gergiev has been an active supporter and friend of Putin since they first met in 1992. In 2014, Gergiev expressed his support for Putin’s actions in Donetsk. (Donetsk is one of the separatist-controlled areas that Putin recognized as an independent region last Monday.)

In 2013, Putin revived a Stalin-era award for Gergiev, presenting him with the Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation award – a year after Gergiev appeared in a Putin election campaign video, proclaiming his support. Putin was a vocal champion of the Mariinsky Theater while serving as Vice Mayor of St. Petersburg.

On Sunday, Gergiev’s European manager Marcus Felsner announced he was dropping him as a client over his ties to Putin. In the United States, Gergiev is represented by manager Douglas Sheldon, whose list also includes the Mariinsky Orchestra and the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Sheldon did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.

Moreover, the mayors and arts administrators of three European cities have given Gergiev deadlines by which, they say, the conductor must distance himself from Putin and speak out against the invasion – otherwise Gergiev will be fired from his job in government-supported arts institutions. .

In Germany, Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter said that if Gergiev did not speak out against the invasion by Monday, he would be removed from his post as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. In the Netherlands, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra said it would scrap a Gergiev festival planned for September if the conductor did not part ways with Putin.

At Milan’s legendary La Scala opera house, Gergiev is set to conduct performances of Tchaikovsky’s opera Queen Spades until March 15. Mayor says if Gergiev maintains relationship with Putin, ‘collaboration will be over’, according to newspaper Il Corriere.

Additionally, star soprano Anna Netrebko, whose international rise has been closely linked to her frequent appearances at the Met, may be affected by the Met’s decision. Her next scheduled New York opera appearance is April 30, where she is set to begin a run in the title role of Puccini’s opera. Turandot.

Like Gergiev, Netrebko has been associated with Putin for decades. In 2012, she endorsed his election and said in an interview that she wished she had had the chance to be Putin’s lover, as she admired his “strong male energy”. Shortly after Crimea was annexed in 2014, Netrebko (who became an Austrian citizen in 2006) made a monetary donation to the Donetsk Opera House, entrusted to a pro-Russian separatist leader, Oleg Tsaryov. They were pictured together holding a Russian separatist flag.

In a statement posted to Instagram in Russian and English on Saturday, a day before the Met’s announcement, Netrebko wrote that she was “opposed to this war” and maintained that she was “not a political person”. . But she continued: “Forcing artists, or any public figure, to express their political views in public and denounce their homeland is not right.

In a pugnacious instagram story who has since disappeared, Netrekbo added: “It is particularly despicable of Westerners, sitting comfortably in their homes, not fearing for their lives, to pretend to be brave and pretend to ‘fight’ in putting artists in trouble who asked for nothing. It’s just hypocrisy on their part. Those people who think that being on the “good side” allows them everything and excuses their unfair behavior are just human bullshit. are as bad as blind aggressors. It doesn’t matter which side they come from. ❤”

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