Valery Gergiev Faces Removal From Podiums Over Support for Putin
A day after he was dropped from concerts at Carnegie Hall, the star Russian maestro Valery Gergiev on Friday faced rising anger over his record of support for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, with several leading European institutions — including the Munich Philharmonic, of which Mr. Gergiev is chief conductor — threatening to sever ties with him unless he denounced Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The fallout, encompassing Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, was a rare rebuke of a titan of the classical music industry, and it reflected growing global outrage over Mr. Putin’s ongoing military offensive in Ukraine.
Mr. Gergiev, 68, one of Russia’s most prominent cultural ambassadors, is now being shunned because of his ties to Mr. Putin, his longtime friend and benefactor. He seems in peril of losing several key posts, including the podium in Munich and his position as honorary conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
Munich’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, issued an ultimatum on Friday, saying Mr. Gergiev must denounce the “brutal war of aggression that Putin is waging against Ukraine” before Monday or be fired by the orchestra, three years before his contract is set to expire.
The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra offered a similar warning, threatening to cancel its “Gergiev Festival,” planned for September. The Teatro alla Scala in Milan said Mr. Gergiev would be dropped from upcoming performances of Tchaikovsky’s “Queen of Spades” and other engagements if he did not immediately call for peace.
And after Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic announced on Thursday that Mr. Gergiev would no longer lead the orchestra in three high-profile concerts starting Friday evening, Carnegie on Friday canceled two concerts by the Mariinsky Orchestra in May that were to have been led by Mr. Gergiev.
Mr. Gergiev did not respond to requests for comment from The New York Times.
The uproar was a significant blow to a conductor who has built a busy international career while maintaining deep ties to the Russian state, including in his role as general and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.
Mr. Putin has been critical to Mr. Gergiev’s success, providing funding to his theater and showering him with awards. Mr. Gergiev has emerged as a prominent supporter of Mr. Putin, endorsing his re-election and appearing at concerts in Russia and abroad to promote his policies. The two have known each other since the early 1990s, when Mr. Putin was an official in St. Petersburg and Mr. Gergiev was beginning his tenure as the leader of the Mariinsky, then called the Kirov.
Western cultural institutions have largely looked beyond Mr. Gergiev’s ties to Mr. Putin, even as the conductor became the target of repeated protests over the past decade, at Carnegie, the Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere.
Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine this week put new pressure on arts leaders to reconsider their ties to Mr. Gergiev. After a hastily arranged meeting on Thursday morning, Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic made the announcement that the orchestra would go on without him. The Russian pianist Denis Matsuev, who had been scheduled to perform with Mr. Gergiev and the Philharmonic on Friday, and who has expressed support for Mr. Putin’s policies in the past, was also taken off the program.
Understand Russia’s Attack on Ukraine
What is at the root of this invasion? Russia considers Ukraine within its natural sphere of influence, and it has grown unnerved at Ukraine’s closeness with the West and the prospect that the country might join NATO or the European Union. While Ukraine is part of neither, it receives financial and military aid from the United States and Europe.
Clive Gillinson, Carnegie’s executive and artistic director, who in the past said that Mr. Gergiev should not be punished for political views, said in an interview on Friday that he and the Philharmonic had come to the conclusion that it was “untenable” for Mr. Gergiev and Mr. Matsuev to perform because of their ties to Mr. Putin.
“All of us felt this situation just changes the world, unfortunately,” he said, referring to the invasion of Ukraine.
Mr. Gergiev and Mr. Matsuev were also dropped from concerts next week in Naples, Fla., with the Philharmonic, whose chairman said as recently as Sunday that Mr. Gergiev was a gifted artist and would take the podium for the Carnegie dates.
“He’s going as a performer, not a politician,” Daniel Froschauer, the orchestra’s chairman, said in an interview then with The Times.
The Philharmonic issued a statement on Friday saying it stands against “every form of aggression and war.” It did not reference Mr. Gergiev or Mr. Matsuev.
The attack on Ukraine prompted Anna Netrebko, the Russian soprano who is one of the biggest stars in opera, to cancel a performance she had been set to give Friday night in Denmark with her husband, the tenor Yusif Eyvazov.