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Multiple Festivals and Orchestras Continue to Cancel Gergiev


Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, 68, is facing further moves by various renowned orchestras and music festivals to remove his concert appearances — in light of his close ties to the Russian president and silence on Russia’s attacks on Ukraine.

As reported by BBC News, Gergiev has faced pressure to speak out against the attacks but has so far remained silent on the matter. Because of this, the Munich Philharmonic has now fired him as their chief conductor. According to the New York Times, Gergiev had held this post since 2015, but his failure to respond to demands by February 28, which were issued by Munich mayor Dieter Reiter, has led to the termination of his contract three years before it was set to expire.  

Gergiev and Putin's relationship has been quite public throughout the years. In 2013, Putin gave Gergiev the Hero Of Labor of the Russian Federation Prize, reviving the Stalin-era prize in gratitude of Gergiev voicing his support in Putin's election campaign video. Following this, during Metropolitan Opera’s 2013-14 season opener concert, Gergiev was received with protests petitioning his appearance. 

Similar to Munich Philharmonic’s demands on Gergiev, the Netherlands Rotterdam Philharmonic, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, and Italy’s Teatro alla Scala have threatened to fire him if he does not condemn Russia’s attacks. 

Gergiev was also recently requested to resign as honorary president of the Edinburgh International Festival. Awarded in 2011, Gergiev’s title was questioned after the festival board met on Monday to discuss his position following worldwide criticism of his ties to the Kremlin, according to The Times.

With the resignation effective immediately, the festival announced in a statement: “The board of trustees of the Edinburgh International Festival has asked for, and accepted the resignation of [Gergiev]...Edinburgh is twinned with the city of Kyiv and this action is being taken in sympathy with, and support of, its citizens.”

Switzerland’s Verbier Festival also announced in a press release the first of their responses to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They have likewise asked for and accepted the resignation of Gergiev as their music director, who succeeded Charles Dutoit in the role in 2018. 

Also in immediate effect for Verbier is the return of all donations from individuals sanctioned by Western governments, plus the cancellation of other artists publicly aligned with the Russian government at the festival set for July 15–31, 2022.



“[The Verbier Festival] strongly condemns Russia’s gruesome aggression against Ukraine,” stated Martin T:son Engstroem, the festival’s founder and director. “We follow with sadness and horror the violation the Russian regime is imposing on the people of Ukraine,” he continued. “We pray for them and the courage they show in refuting the aggressor.”

Additionally, Latvia’s Riga Jurmala Festival has canceled its event altogether, while Switzerland’s Lucerne Festival drops Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra’s concerts, which were set from August 21–22, 2022. New performers and programs will be announced later in the year. 

“In view of Russia's acts of war in violation of international law, we are sending a clear signal of solidarity to the people of Ukraine,” stated Lucerne Festival’s executive and artistic director Michael Haefliger. “We are deeply concerned and condemn the attack on Ukraine and on innocent people in the strongest possible terms.”

Not only is Gergiev losing conducting roles with major orchestras, but he has also been removed from the Felsner Artists management roster with whom he has been represented since December 2020. 

“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,” said the organization’s founder Marcus Felsner in a statement, according to The Gazette.

The list continues with the Philharmonie de Paris, who canceled the concerts with the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra and Gergiev on April 9–10, 2022, in the Grande salle Pierre Boulez.

Likewise, following Carnegie Hall’s cancellation of Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic’s concerts this past weekend, the venue has further dropped Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra’s appearances on May 3–4 , 2022.

Gergiev’s silence on Russia’s attacks is in contrast to a few high-profile Russian-born conductors who have spoken out in condemnation of the Ukraine invasion. Semyon Bychkov, the Czech Philharmonic music director made a public statement announcing his views on the unfolding Russia-Ukraine crisis, criticizing Russia’s military invasion.

Similarly, Berlin Philharmonic’s chief conductor Kirill Petrenko, said: “Putin’s insidious attack on Ukraine, which violates international law, is a knife in the back of the entire peaceful world. It is also an attack on the arts, which, as we know, unite across all borders. I am in complete solidarity with all my Ukrainian colleagues and can only hope that all artists will stand together for freedom, sovereignty and against aggression.” 

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