Russian musicians don’t deserve annulment for Putin’s crimes

America is still buy russian oil, This is partly funding President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked, unjustified and uncivilized actions invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, American organizations that do not directly denounce Putin, the man who wields power not only over their livelihood but over their lives, are sacking Russian musicians.

It’s easy to make smug, smug grand gestures. It is more difficult to consider the complications of making music in wartime – and the danger of imposing political bans on art and artists.

Conductor Valery Gergiev and soprano Anna Netrebko are arguably the two greatest Russian classical musicians of our time. New York cultural powerhouses have both shown the door in recent days.

First, the day before Gergiev’s three-concert tour with the Vienna Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall announced that he would be replaced by the ubiquitous Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The concert on Friday was a pure Rachmaninoff program and the Russian pianist Denis Matsuev was not there either.

The famous venue gave no explanation – and did not announce a replacement for the notoriously difficult Second Piano Concerto, Seong-Jin Cho, by the day of the show.

Putin congratulates Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko after awarding her the honor of People's Artist of Russia in St Petersburg, Russia.
Putin congratulates Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko after awarding her the honor of People’s Artist of Russia in St Petersburg, Russia.
Dmitry Lovetsky

Cho, who had flown in from Berlin that day, hadn’t performed Rach Second for two and a half years. Carnegie later wrote to attendees, admitting that “this weekend’s audience experience did not live up to the standards we aspire to, including longer than usual queues.”

Then it was Netrebko’s turn on Thursday. The colorful diva has been a Metropolitan Opera favorite for years, and she directed their 2019 New Year’s Eve gala. Now she won’t take the stage as planned for her much-anticipated debut as Turnadot in April – in fact, she may never take the stage again.

Get the latest Update in the Russia-Ukraine conflict with live coverage of The Post.

“Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims there was no way forward in Ukraine,” said Met CEO Peter Gelb. “It’s hard to imagine a scenario where she will return to the Met.”

Netrebko is not a supporter of the Ukraine war. “I am against this senseless war of aggression and call on Russia to stop this war immediately to save us all. We need peace now,” she said this week. But the Met gave her an ultimatum, insisting that she go further and directly denounce Putin — contradicting Gelb’s assertion: “We don’t interview or question artists about their positions.”

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev
Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has been replaced by a non-Russian conductor for three concerts at Carnegie Hall.
Kai Försterling

It’s not quite like asking Shostakovich to denounce Stalin. But the same principle applies: Gergiev and Netrebko cannot make careers in their homeland and criticize their dictator. You must show some level of support to survive. Putin’s regime threatens imprisonment for anyone speaking out against the invasion; Imagine what the strong man would do with a high profile personality blaming him personally.

One who has left Gergiev understands that. Agent Marcus Felsner called him “one of the greatest conductors of all time” but quit him as a client, despite noting that Gergiev holds “a government-backed office” and his support for one Dictator “cannot finish”. And he pointed out that Gergiev does not only think about himself: “The work of his life is the thousands of phenomenal musicians, dancers and other employees of the Mariinsky Theater and their families, for which he has always felt responsible as a family. ”

Classical music is sacred in Russia. At the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg in 2012, I went to the Mariinsky every night for a week and a half and was impressed by the audience: people of all ages and from all walks of life have dedicated themselves to classical music. And nobody was a better ambassador of his country’s culture than Valery Gergiev.

Russian operatic soprano Anna Netrebko performs during the 27th annual Victoires de la musique classique ceremony in northeastern France.
Russian operatic soprano Anna Netrebko performs during the 27th annual Victoires de la musique classique ceremony in northeastern France.

Carnegie welcomed a Russian pianist this week – but Daniil Trifonov lives in New York and doesn’t have to bow to Putin.

During the intermission at the Rachmaninoff concert at Carnegie Hall, I realized that some blamed all Russians for Putin’s provocations. Popping in for a drink at the Russian Tea Room — Carnegie’s bars are still closed post-COVID — I chatted with a manager and learned the legendary restaurant had been receiving threatening phone calls.

Even innocent animals are punished for Putin: The International Cat Federation has banned Russian cats from their competitions. But Beijing’s killer regime has been allowed to benefit from international Olympics, and its representatives travel freely across the West.

Even at the height of the Cold War, Russia and America shared a common language of music. Raised in Texas, Van Cliburn did much for art and peace when he won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958 – a shock to Russians. Gergiev is now directing this competition. Art is always essential to human life, but in times of political tension, cultural exchange becomes even more important.

Kelly Jane Torrance is the editor of The Post.

Twitter: @KJTorrance Russian musicians don’t deserve annulment for Putin’s crimes


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