Russian ballet and music performances cancelled as arts venues voice support for Ukraine

3 March 2022, 20:17

Performers from Russian State Ballet dance ‘Swan Lake’
Performers from Russian State Ballet dance ‘Swan Lake’. Picture: Getty

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Multiple Russian ballet companies, including the Bolshoi, have been called off in the UK amid a boycott of the country’s high-profile cultural institutions following the invasion of Ukraine.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, music venues in the UK and beyond have cancelled upcoming performances by Russian artists.

In the UK, the Royal Opera House has cancelled a summer season from the Bolshoi Ballet, on Friday the Helix theatre in Dublin cancelled a performance of Swan Lake by the Royal Moscow Ballet, and the Bristol Hippodrome, the Edinburgh Playhouse, the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, the New Theatre Peterborough, and the Royal and Derngate in Northampton have all cancelled tour performances from the Russian State Ballet of Siberia.

Vladimir Urin, the director of the Bolshoi Ballet, was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government in 2013, and the Russian State Ballet is a state-sponsored company.

The Royal Moscow Ballet however, said in a statement after its performance in Dublin was cancelled, that the ballet company is in “no way funded or sponsored by the Russian government”.

The company has been touring Ireland annually for over 10 years, and the dancers represent various nationalities; the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Uzbek, Japanese, Irish and Polish cast and crew have travelled the world with each other for a number of years.

The statement continued: “We hope this helps to clarify the diversity of our ballet company and that we don’t carry any political message on this tour. We simply dance for peace.”

Read more: ‘Our culture is at stake’: Ukrainians use powerful music to voice their protests as Russia declares war

Valery Gergiev concert appearances cancelled at New York’s Carnegie Hall
Valery Gergiev concert appearances cancelled at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Picture: Getty

In the United States, New York’s Carnegie Hall was set to host the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Russian music director, Valery Gergiev, with the piano soloist, Denis Matsuev, last week.

Both musicians, who have strong ties with Putin, were removed from the weekend programme and replaced with Canadian conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and South-Korean pianist, Seong-Jin Cho, after multiple public protests ahead of the planned concerts.

Carnegie Hall has also cancelled two upcoming performances where Gergiev would have led the Mariinsky Orchestra in May. And on Sunday, Gergiev’s European manager, Marcus Felsner, announced that he would be dropping his Russian client due to the 68-year-old conductor’s ties to Putin.

In a statement, Felsner said: “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.

“This is the saddest day of my professional life.”

Read more: Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, who has ties with Putin, will not conduct at Carnegie Hall

Met General Manager's Message About the War in Ukraine.

🇺🇦 Met General Manager Peter Gelb recorded this message today about the war in Ukraine.

Posted by The Metropolitan Opera on Sunday, February 27, 2022

Gergiev and Matsuev are not the only pro-Putin artists to face problems with performing internationally.

The Metropolitan Opera House in New York, announced on Sunday that it would sever all ties with “Russian artists and institutions who are allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said in a video statement on Facebook (watch above), that, “as an international opera company, the Met can help ring the alarm and contribute to the fight against oppression... we can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him – not until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored and restitutions have been made.”

He added in an interview with the New York Times on Sunday that “It’s terrible that artistic relationships, at least temporarily, are the collateral damage of these actions by Putin”, though Gelb did not directly name any of the artists or institutions that would be suspended.

Read more: Ukrainian operatic baritone sings his national hymn at 10 Downing Street in ‘call for peace’

Concerts with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko cancelled following invasion of Ukraine
Concerts with Russian soprano Anna Netrebko cancelled following invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Getty

As well as Gergiev, who made his Met debut in 1994, the Met has said it will cut ties with all pro-Putin artists.

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, who was scheduled to perform in the title role of Puccini’s Turandot at the opera house in May, has pulled out of upcoming Met appearances. While she had released statements critical of the war, Netrebko failed to comply with the Met’s demand to renounce support for the President, whose re-election she has endorsed in previous years.

“It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera,” Peter Gelb said in a statement. “Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine there was no way forward.”

Netrebko has already experienced cancellations due to her previous support of Putin. The star soprano was due to perform with her partner, Azerbaijani tenor, Yusif Eyvazov in Denmark last Friday, however, a councillor from the Aarhus Municipality’s culture and citizen service voiced his support for the event to be cancelled.

Councillor Rabih Azad-Ahmad said in a statement that, “the situation in Ukraine is historic and requires us to stand together to say no.

“Normally, I am in favour of keeping culture and politics separate, but there is nothing normal in Russian aggression, and therefore we should step in where we can. If UEFA can move the Champions League final, we should also be able to cancel performances in the Music House.”