The Music World and the Russian-Ukrainian War

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New York’s  music landscape is changing, with some of the city’s most prestigious arts organizations severing ties with Valery Gergiev and Anna Netrebko for their refusal to renounce their support of Putin.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, much of the world, has shown widespread support for Ukraine and placed heavy penalties on Russia in an effort to cease the fighting.  This has manifested as a movement to remove those who have displayed support for Putin and Russia from their positions.

On the day of the invasion, both Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic announced that Valery Gergiev, a Russian conductor, would be replaced by Yannik Nézet-Séguin for the first three upcoming concerts that the Philharmonic would perform in since the COVID-19 shutdown three years ago. In addition, on March 1st, Gergiev was also removed from his post as chief conductor at the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. Moreover, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra also announced that it will cancel its annual Gergiev Festival unless he revokes his support for Putin, and the Verbier Festival Orchestra asked him to resign from his position as music director. He refused to denounce Putin’s actions, and has had a three-decade long relationship with Putin including supporting past moves that Putin made against Ukraine, including the annexation of Crimea in 2014. His previous stances have attracted vocal protests in the past, and this time was no different. Furthermore, not only was Gergiev dropped, but also the Russian pianist, Dennis Matsuev, who was supposed to play on that Friday because of his previous support of Putin and the annexation in 2014.

In addition to the actions of Carnegie Hall,  the Metropolitan Opera made a statement on February 27th in a show of their support for Ukraine. Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, declared, “We can no longer engage in artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him.” He announced that they would cease all contact, “until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored, and restitutions have been made.”

As a result, Anna Netrebko, the prima donna Russian soprano at the Metropolitan Opera, will no longer be singing at the Metropolitan Opera after failing to comply with the company’s demand to make a public declaration of disapproval for Putin’s actions. Additionally, her upcoming performances with the Bavarian State Opera were canceled, and she withdrew from the Zurich Opera House. While Netrebko has been openly critical of the war, she has been a supporter of Putin beforehand and endorsed his previous re-election in 2018. In response to the Metropolitan Opera’s requirement, she stated on Instagram that “forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right,” and therefore, she would not criticize Putin’s actions. Gelb stated that this “is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera… Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine there was no way forward.” 

The war between Russia and Ukraine is clearly altering New York’s music scene, and it still remains to be seen what the long-term effects of this war will have on it.

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