New York (AFP) – In an extraordinary last-minute move Manhattan's Carnegie Hall has cut the acclaimed Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, a close supporter of Vladimir Putin, from its programming this weekend “due to recent world events,” a spokesperson at the prestigious institution told AFP Thursday.
The decision — which Carnegie and the Vienna Philharmonic had earlier delivered in a joint statement, without specifiying an exact cause — comes in the wake of the Russian president's invasion of Ukraine, which has drawn international condemnation.
Protesters were expected at the superstar maestro's three highly anticipated appearances leading the Vienna Philharmonic in New York to begin Friday.
Gergiev has not yet spoken publicly regarding Moscow's offensive, but he has proven fiercely loyal to the Russian president in the past, and has triggered protests at previous New York performances for allying with him on matters including the annexation of Crimea and a law aimed at stifling LGBT rights activists in Russia.
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev — another Putin supporter who was scheduled to solo with the Vienna Philharmonic on Friday — was also dropped from the performance.
Yannick Nezet-Seguin will fill Gergiev's spot, according to the statement, conducting the weekend of shows ahead of his direction of Verdi's “Don Carlos” on Monday at the Metropolitan Opera, of which he is musical director.
The soloist for Friday's program has yet to be announced.
“Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra are immensely grateful to Yannick Nezet-Seguin for stepping in for these performances at very short notice,” read the statement.
The globe-trotting Gergiev has also faced pressure in Milan, where he is currently leading Tchaikovsky's “The Queen of Spades” at the Teatro alla Scala, to speak out against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
If he doesn't, “the collaboration will be over,” Italian media quoted Milan's mayor as saying.
Gergiev is also on deck to conduct the Mariinsky Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in early May. The prestigious hall did not indicate whether those performances were still scheduled to go ahead as planned.