MUNICH (AP) — Russian conductor Valery Gergiev was dropped by his management company Sunday over his ties to Russia President Vladimir Putin.
The 68-year-old Russian had been represented since December 2020 by Munich-based Marcus Felsner, who started his own management company that year after leaving Opus3.
“In the light of the criminal war waged by the Russian regime against the democratic and independent nation of Ukraine, and against the European open society as a whole, it has become impossible for us, and clearly unwelcome, to defend the interests of Maestro Gergiev,” Felsner said in a statement.
Gergiev is the music director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, and its White Nights Festival, as well as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. The Hero of Labor of the Russian Federation recipient is close to Putin and expressed support for Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Felsner called Gergiev “the greatest conductor alive and an extraordinary human being with a profound sense of decency” yet criticized Gergiev because he “will not, or cannot, publicly end his long-expressed support for a regime that has come to commit such crimes.”
The move by Gergiev's management comes just ahead of a Monday deadline Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter imposed on Gergiev to publicly denounce the invasion. If Gergiev does not comply, Reiter has said he will remove him as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic.
The Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra — which began an annual Gergiev Festival in 1996 — also said it would drop the Russian’s planned festival there this September if he does not stop supporting Putin.
Metropolitan Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin replaced Gergiev for three weekend performances by the Vienna Philharmonic at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Gergiev won’t conduct two performances with that orchestra this week at Hayes Hall in Naples, Florida. And Carnegie on Friday canceled two May performances by the Mariinsky Orchestra that were to be led by Gergiev.
Felsner called the severance of ties "the saddest day of my professional life.”
Gergiev and a U.S. representative, Doug Sheldon of Sheldon Artists, both did not respond to texts seeking comment.
Follow AP’s coverage of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine