2 orchestras fire Russian conductor for supporting Putin

BERLIN (AP) — Valery Gergiev has been fired as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic because of his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and for not rejecting the invasion of Ukraine, the German city’s mayor said Tuesday.

Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter announced the decision after Gergiev didn’t respond to Reiter’s demand that the 68-year-old Russian conductor change course.

“I had expected him to rethink and revise his very positive assessment of the Russian leader,” Reiter said. “After this didn’t occur, the only option is the immediate severance of ties.”

Gergiev has been Munich’s chief conductor since the 2015-16 season.

The Rotterdam Philharmonic in the Netherlands also cut ties with Gergiev, saying “an unbridgeable divide” between the orchestra and conductor on the issue of the Russian invasion became clear after speaking with him.

The announcement ends a close cooperation between the Rotterdam orchestra and Gergiev dating back to 1988 and also halts a Dutch festival that bears his name.

The Verbier Festival in Switzerland said Tuesday that Gergiev resigned as music director at its request.

Gergiev, a friend and supporter of Putin, is the music director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, and its White Nights Festival. He was already dropped by the Edinburgh International Festival and from the Vienna Philharmonic’s five-concert U.S. tour, and his management company said Sunday it will no longer represent him.

Milan’s Teatro alla Scala said unless Gergiev makes a clear statement in favor of a peaceful resolution in Ukraine, Gergiev wouldn’t be permitted to return to complete his engagement conducting Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen of Spades,” which resumes March 5.

The war also has created difficulties for other Russian artists.

On Tuesday, soprano Anna Netrebko said that she had “decided to take a step back from performing for the time being.”

“As I have said, I am opposed to this senseless war of aggression and I am calling on Russia to end this war right now, to save all of us,” she said in a statement. “We need peace right now.”

“This is not a time for me to make music and perform,” she said.

In a weekend Instagram post, Netrebko had voiced her opposition to the war but also said that “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.” She said that she is “not a political person.”


Follow the AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine