World-famous Russian conductor and opera company director Valery Gergiev has made a comeback in China, after being fired in Germany last year for his refusal to condemn Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.
“It’s like coming home,” said Gergiev at a news conference this week as he kicked off a three-day programme at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
His shows with Russia’s Mariinsky Orchestra marked the first time an overseas group has performed in China since the country reopened to foreign artists this month, post-Covid, according to national media, which hailed Gergiev’s performance as a sign of growing ties between Moscow and Beijing.
Gergiev previously served as the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic in Germany. However, like many prominent Russian artists in the West, he was sacked in March 2022 after refusing to publicly denounce President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine. New York’s Carnegie Hall and Metropolitan Opera also banned Gergiev, as well as other Russian musicians and organizations, from performing at their venues.
Since the start of the conflict in late February 2022, the US, the EU and their allies have imposed unprecedented sanctions against Moscow, targeting nearly all sectors of Russia’s economy. Personal sanctions have also been slapped on numerous Russian officials, along with business and public figures.
The clampdown, which has been further propagated by Kiev, has also affected the country’s athletes and artists, many of whom have been banned from performing in the West, participating in international competitions, or being allowed access to Western markets.
Last month, Ukrainian authorities called on the Swedish audio streaming service Spotify to remove all songs by Russian artists who “support the war,” while other nations have demanded a blanket ban on Russian culture, or “mental quarantine” on it, as first suggested by Lithuanian Culture Minister Simonas Kairys.
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