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Metropolitan Opera says it will cut ties with pro-Putin artists
The Metropolitan Opera in New York, March 12, 2020. The Metropolitan Opera said on Sunday that it would no longer engage with performers or other institutions that have voiced support for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, becoming the latest cultural organization to seek to distance itself from some Russian artists amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Vincent Tullo/The New York Times.

by Javier C. Hernández

NEW YORK, NY.- The Metropolitan Opera said Sunday that it would no longer engage with performers or other institutions that have voiced support for President Vladimir Putin of Russia, becoming the latest cultural organization to seek to distance itself from some Russian artists amid Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said the Met, which has long employed Russians as top singers and has a producing partnership with the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, had an obligation to show support for the people of Ukraine.

“While we believe strongly in the warm friendship and cultural exchange that has long existed between the artists and artistic institutions of Russia and the United States,” Gelb said in a video statement, “we can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him.”

Gelb added that the policy would be in effect “until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored, and restitutions have been made.”

The Met’s decision could affect artists like superstar soprano Anna Netrebko, who has ties to Putin and was once pictured holding a flag used by some Russian-backed separatist groups in Ukraine. Netrebko is scheduled to appear at the Met in Puccini’s “Turandot” beginning on April 30.

Netrebko has tried to distance herself from the invasion, posting a statement Saturday on Instagram saying she was “opposed to this war.” She added a note of defiance, writing that “forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right.”

It was unclear if her statement would satisfy the Met’s new test.

The company’s decision will also likely mean the end of its collaboration with the Bolshoi, including on a new production of Wagner’s “Lohengrin” that is scheduled for next season. The Met was relying on the Bolshoi for the staging’s sets and costumes, but now it might have to change course.

“We’re scrambling, but I think we’ll have no choice but to physically build our own sets and costumes,” Gelb said in an interview Sunday evening.

He added that he was saddened that the Bolshoi partnership, which began five years ago, would likely come to an end — at least for the moment.

“It’s terrible that artistic relationships, at least temporarily, are the collateral damage of these actions by Putin,” he said.

The Met’s decision comes as performing arts institutions grapple with the ongoing fallout from Putin’s invasion. In recent days Russian artists, long ubiquitous in classical music, have come under pressure to condemn Putin’s actions or face the prospect of canceled engagements.

Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Philharmonic last week dropped two Russian artists, conductor Valery Gergiev and pianist Denis Matsuev, from a series of planned concerts because of the two men’s ties to Putin. Gergiev is also in peril of losing several key posts, including as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic and as honorary conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.

On Sunday, Gergiev’s manager announced he was ending his relationship with his client.

“It has become impossible for us, and clearly unwelcome, to defend the interests of Maestro Gergiev, one of the greatest conductors of all time, a visionary artist loved and admired by many of us, who will not, or cannot, publicly end his long-expressed support for a regime that has come to commit such crimes,” the manager, Marcus Felsner, who is based in Munich, said in a statement.

The Royal Opera House in London said last week it would cancel a residency by the Bolshoi Ballet planned for this summer.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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