UPDATED: The Edinburgh International Festival on Feb. 28 announced that it had severed longstanding ties with Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.
“The board of trustees of the Edinburgh International Festival has asked for, and accepted the resignation of, Valery Gergiev as Honorary President of the Festival,” the fest said in a statement, adding that Gergiev’s resignation was was effective immediately.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is reverberating in the classical music world, where star conductor Valery Gergiev, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is being forced to cancel engagements at La Scala in Italy as well as Carnegie Hall and other venues in the U.S.
Gergiev, known to be an old friend and vocal supporter of Putin, last conducted Tchaikovsky’s opera “The Queen of Spades” on Feb. 23 at Milan’s famed La Scala opera house, where he was lightly booed, according to Italian press reports.
On Feb. 24, as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala, who is the president of La Scala, publicly urged Gergiev to condemn Russia’s invasion, saying that if the conductor — who has not commented Putin’s move — did not issue a statement, “the collaboration will be over,” he said.
Gergiev is next scheduled to appear at La Scala on March 5. La Scala spokesman Paolo Besana on Friday confirmed to Variety that Gergiev’s engagement at the theater house will not continue, unless the conductor takes a stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is considered unlikely.
“We are still waiting for his answer. If he does not answer our request, we will be forced to find another conductor,” the La Scala spokesman said.
Meanwhile, after the Milan mayor publicly called out Gergiev to take a stand, Carnegie Hall announced that the 68-year-old Russian conductor, who is a fixture on the U.S. classical music circuit, will not be leading the Vienna Philharmonic in a five-date U.S. tour that was scheduled to kick off at New York’s Carnegie Hall on Feb. 25.
Responding to mounting protests, Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic on Feb. 24 in a last-minute decision, after defending Gergiev, announced that the pro-Putin conductor had been removed from the program, according to several U.S. news outlets.
“This change was made due to recent world events,” Carnegie Hall spokeswoman Synneve Carlino told the Associated Press.
Furthermore, Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic have also announced that Russian pianist Denis Matsuev, also known to be close to Putin and a vocal supporter of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, will not be performing with Gergiev and the Philharmonic orchestra on Feb. 25. Gergiev is being replaced by Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. A replacement for Matsuey has not been announced.
Gergiev, who is music director of the famed Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and of the Russian city’s White Nights Festival, as well as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, has been close with Putin since the early 1990s, when the Russian president was starting his political career in St. Petersburg.
Gergiev has since supported Putin on many occasions, including appearing in a TV ad for his 2012 presidential campaign, signing a petition supporting the 2014 annexation of Crimea, and conducting a patriotic 2016 concert in the Syrian city of Palmyra, shortly after Russian airstrikes there.