What happened on Day 5 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
Valery Gergiev, the star Russian maestro and prominent supporter of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, was dismissed from his position as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra on Tuesday after he refused to speak out against the invasion of the Ukraine by Mr. Putin.
And Anna Netrebko, the Russian diva who is one of the biggest international opera stars, has seen her upcoming engagements with the Bavarian State Opera canceled, and the Zurich Opera announced that she had withdrawn from her upcoming performances there. She too has ties to Mr. Putin, and was once illustrated holding a flag used by some Russian-backed separatist groups in Ukraine.
Dieter Reiter, the mayor of Munich, announced his decision regarding Mr Gergiev and the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in a press release stating that termination of the contract was the only option available.
Mr Gergiev’s abrupt dismissal, three years before his contract expires, was the biggest setback for the conductor, who has been the target of widespread anger and condemnation in recent days for its long history of supporting Mr. Putin and his Strategies.
Officials in Munich said Mr Gergiev, who had served as conductor since 2015, failed to respond to a request by Mr Reiter on Friday to condemn the ‘brutal war of aggression’ of Mr Putin by Monday or be fired.
The press release states that “with immediate effect, there will be no more concerts by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra” under the direction of Mr. Gergiev.
Mr. Reiter said in his statement that “I would have expected him to reconsider and revise his very positive assessment of the Russian leader. He did not do it.
Mr. Gergiev did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Zurich Opera director Andreas Homoki noted that Ms Netrebko had issued a statement over the weekend in which she said she opposed the war.
“We view this statement as a positive development and note that she cannot distance herself further from Vladimir Putin,” Homoki said in the statement. “As a matter of principle, we do not consider it appropriate to judge the decisions and actions of citizens of repressive regimes based on the perspective of those living in a Western European democracy.”
But he went on to note that the opera’s “decisive condemnation” of Mr Putin and his actions was “not consistent with Anna Netrebko’s public position”.
He said Ms Netrebko had decided not to sing in upcoming performances and had released a statement saying, “Now is not the time for me to make music and perform. So I decided to take a step back from performance for now. This is an extremely difficult decision for me, but I know my audience will understand and respect this decision.
After the cancellations were announced on Tuesday, Ms Netrebko posted a photo on instagram of herself with Mr. Gergiev smiling after a concert. In a separate message, she said: “As I said, I am opposed to this senseless war of aggression and I call on Russia to end this war now, to save us all. We need peace now.
The Metropolitan Opera has made no announcement regarding Ms. Netrebko’s performance. appearances scheduled for this spring, but Peter Gelb, its chief executive, said in an interview on Tuesday that “the Met maintains its position that artists who support Putin will not be permitted to perform at the Met.” Before the Met performed Verdi’s “Don Carlos” on Monday night, the company sang the Ukrainian national anthem.
The rapid events showed how quickly arts organizations around the world have established close ties with Russia’s most prominent cultural ambassadors since Mr Putin’s invasion began on Thursday.
Mr Gergiev had lost a number of engagements in the days that followed, but the loss of his leading position at the head of a major European orchestra suggested far more serious ramifications for his international career.
It’s a stunning turnaround for Mr Gergiev, whose busy schedule and regular engagements with many of the world’s leading concert halls and opera houses have led the Bachtrack website, which collects music performance statistics classic, to proclaim it the busiest conductor in several recent seasons.
Mr Gergiev is a prominent supporter of Mr Putin, endorsing his re-election and performing at concerts in Russia and abroad to promote his policies. The two have known each other since the early 1990s, when Mr. Putin was a civil servant in St. Petersburg and Mr. Gergiev began his tenure as head of the Mariinsky, then called the Kirov.
Mr. Putin played a significant role in Mr. Gergiev’s success, funding the Mariinsky Theater, where Mr. Gergiev serves as general and artistic director.
His international commitments began to dry up last week when Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra pulled him from a series of performances. On Sunday, Mr Gergiev’s manager announced he was ending his relationship with his client.
Director Marcus Felsner said in a statement that it had become impossible to defend Mr Gergiev, whom he described as “one of the greatest conductors of all time, a beloved visionary artist and admired by many of us, who will not, or cannot, publicly end their longstanding support for a regime that has come to commit such crimes.
On Monday, the fallout continued, with the Verbier Festival in Switzerland saying he had demanded and accepted the resignation of Mr. Gergiev as musical director of the festival orchestra. (The festival also said it would ban other artists who had shown support for Mr. Putin’s actions and would return individual donations under sanctions from Western governments.)
The Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland, where Mr. Gergiev served as Honorary President, also noted on Monday that he had resigned from his post after being asked to do so. The Philharmonie de Paris, a performing arts complex in France, announced that it was canceling two concerts in April with Mr. Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. And the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland noted he canceled two performances in August with M. Gergiev and the Mariinsky.
“Given Russia’s acts of war in violation of international law, we send a clear signal of solidarity to the Ukrainian people,” Michael Haefliger, the festival’s executive and artistic director, said in a statement.
Shortly after the mayor of Munich announced his decision on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany – another major concert hall – said it had also canceled future engagements. by M. Gergiev. Several other institutions are considering similar moves, including the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and the Teatro alla Scala, in Milan.
Alex Marshall contributed reporting.