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Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, a friend of Putin’s, is kicked off Vienna Philharmonic’s US tour

Valery Gergiev, a conductor who is a personal friend and prominent supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, will not lead the Vienna Philharmonic in a five-concert U.S. tour that started at Carnegie Hall on Friday night.

The 68-year-old Russian conductor is music director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, the White Nights Festival there and is chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. 

He received a Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation prize that Putin revived in 2013 and has often voiced support of Putin, who has been widely condemned for ordering an invasion of Ukraine that began Thursday.

Gergiev has been friends with Putin for over thirty years – the pair met when Putin was an official in St. Petersburg and Gergiev was beginning his tenure as the leader of the Kirov Theater there, according to the New York Times

He has repeatedly defended Putin’s actions in the past, and supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

Valery Gergiev, pictured left alongside his long-time friend Vladimir Putin, will not lead his Vienna Philharmonic in a five-concert tour that started in Carnegie Hall on Monday night after he failed to make a statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Gergiev, left, has been friends with Putin for over thirty years - the pair met when Putin was an official in St. Petersburg and Gergiev was beginning his tenure as the leader of the Kirov Theater there

Gergiev, left, has been friends with Putin for over thirty years – the pair met when Putin was an official in St. Petersburg and Gergiev was beginning his tenure as the leader of the Kirov Theater there

Gergiev, pictured, appeared in a television ad for Putin's third presidential campaign in 2012. In 2014, the conductor signed a petition in support of the annexation of Crimea

Gergiev, pictured, appeared in a television ad for Putin’s third presidential campaign in 2012. In 2014, the conductor signed a petition in support of the annexation of Crimea

The decision comes as Russia is barred from a growing list of events in condemnation of the conflict with Ukraine.

Yesterday, the the International Olympic Committee told International Federations to move any events scheduled to take place in Russia or Belarus out of the countries, and the country was banned from competing in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in May.

‘This change was 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 whether 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 favor of a peaceful resolution in the Ukraine, or he would not be permitted to return to complete his engagement conducting Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Queen of Spades.’

Gergiev was lightly contested by the audience during a performance Wednesday night, but the situation changed dramatically with the Russian invasion overnight, theater spokesman Paolo Besana said. He is next scheduled to appear in Milan on March 5.

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala, who is La Scala’s president, said the request was made because Gergiev had declared his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin on multiple occasions.

Pictured is the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of conductor Daniel Barenbolm

Pictured is the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of conductor Daniel Barenbolm

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala (pictured), who is La Scala's president, said the request was made because Gergiev had declared his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin on multiple occasions

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala (pictured), who is La Scala’s president, said the request was made because Gergiev had declared his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin on multiple occasions

‘We are asking him to take a clear position against this invasion, and in the case in which he doesn’t do it, we are constrained to renounce the collaboration,’ Sala said. ‘It is clear that the culture can go on other levels, but in front of such a situation we need to act.’

Although Gergiev had not commented publicly about the ongoing invasion against Ukraine, he had previously supported Russia’s moves against the country, the Times reported.  

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

Activists launched the hashtag #CancelGergiev on Twitter, and circulated photos of the composer beside the Russian leader. 

It wouldn’t have been the first time Gergiev drew ire outside performances at the venue – in 2013, protesters confronted him outside for failing to condemn Putin’s restrictions on the discussion of homosexuality in the country, the New York Times reported.   

The conductor appeared in a television ad for Putin’s third presidential campaign in 2012. In 2014, Gergiev signed a petition in support of the annexation of Crimea. 

‘Ukraine for us is an essential part of our cultural space, in which we were brought up and in which we have lived until now,’ the conductor told a state-run news publication at the time.

Just days before the last-minute decision was made, however, Vienna Philharmonic violinist and chairman Daniel Froschauer told the outlet that Gergiev would be conducting on the tour, defending his support of Putin. 

‘He’s going as a performer, not a politician,’ Froschauer said. ‘We are not politicians. We’re trying to build bridges.’

Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin (pictured) will replace Gergiev for the Carnegie concerts

Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin (pictured) will replace Gergiev for the Carnegie concerts

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

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

Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will replace Gergiev for the Carnegie concerts, creating a busy schedule ahead of Nézet-Séguin leading the Met premiere of the original French version of Verdi’s ‘Don Carlos’ in a five-hour performance on Monday night.

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

Vienna said the weekend programs would remain unchanged, and a soloist will be announced along with a conductor for the Florida concerts. 

Gergiev is scheduled to return to Carnegie in May to lead two performances with the Mariinsky Orchestra; it is unclear if those performances will take place as planned.  


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