Valery Gergiev is facing major criticism and removal from the podium following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, due to his longstanding support of Russia's president Vladimir Putin. Over the weekend, the Russian conductor was dropped by his management, dismissed from major festivals and had upcoming concerts cancelled. Munich's mayor Dieter Reiter has issued Gergiev with an ultimatum: if he fails to publicly denounce Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he will be removed as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic.


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Gergiev is currently conducting a run of performances of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades at La Scala in Milan, where it was reported he was 'booed' by audiences last week. The opera house has also stated that Gergiev will be dropped from his upcoming appearance on 5 March if he did not speak out against the Russian regime. 'The collaboration will be over,' said Milan's mayor Giuseppe Sala, who is also the president of La Scala.

Gergiev has been dropped by his management company over his ties to the Russian president. Marcus Felsner, who has represented Gergiev since December 2020, made a statement on Sunday. 'In the light of the criminal war waged by the Russian regime against the democratic and independent nation of Ukraine, and against the European open society as a whole, it has become impossible for us, and clearly unwelcome, to defend the interests of Maestro Gergiev,' he said.

The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra has also announced that it will cancel its longstanding annual Gergiev Festival this year if the Russian conductor doesn't revoke his support of Putin. The Lucerne Festival has cancelled two of its central concerts featuring the Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, while the Riga Jurmala Festival in Latvia has been called off completely.

Verbier Festival is the most recent organisation to cut ties with the Russian conductor. Its founder and director Martin T:son Engstroem released a statement today saying he had asked for and accepted the resignation of Gergiev as music director of the Verbier Festival Orchestra.

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Gergiev's concert appearances have been cancelled across the globe, with the Metropolitan Opera's music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin stepping in to replace him at New York's Carnegie Hall for three weekend performances with the Vienna Philharmonic. The venue has also cancelled two upcoming performances by the Mariinsky Orchestra that Gergiev was scheduled to conduct.

The Metropolitan Opera released a video on its Facebook page this weekend, with a statement from its general manager Peter Gelb. He announced that the company would 'no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him – not until the invasion or killing has stopped, order has been restored and restitutions have been made.'

Although Gelb has not directly stated which institutions and artists will be affected by this decision, it's been suggested that those most prominent will be the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, its general and artistic director and the Met's former principal guest conductor Valery Gergiev, and soprano Anna Netrebko.

The day before the Met's statement, Anna Netrebko shared a post on her Instagram stating her love for her country and her sympathy for her friends suffering in Ukraine. 'I want to add one thing, however,' she wrote. 'Forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right. This should be a free choice. Like many of my colleagues, I am not a political person, I am not an expert in politics. I am an artist and my purpose is to unite people across political divides.'

Gergiev has been a supporter of Putin since they first met in 1992, and in 2013 was awarded the Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation Prize, a prize awarded during the Stalin era.

It's not the first time his friendship with and support of Putin has been criticised. In 2013, LGBTQ+ campaigner Peter Tatchell walked onto stage at the Barbican to interrupt his concert with the London Symphony Orchestra, in protest of his support for the anti-gay laws in Russia.


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Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.