London Symphony Orchestra director takes sides with Putin against Pussy Riot

 

Pussy Riot’s Moscow church protest, which resulted in a two-year prison sentence for members of the punk group, was motivated by a desire to create controversy to boost their careers, Russia’s leading conductor has suggested.

Valery Gergiev, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the world-famous Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, accused the group of setting out to cause gratuitous offence to Russians.

Two members of the feminist collective are still serving their sentence in prison camps following their performance of a “punk prayer” at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February, which they described as a protest directed at the Orthodox Church’s support for President Putin. Their treatment sparked global protests from leading figures in the arts.

“I don’t think this is anything to do with artistic freedom,” Gergiev told The Independent. “Why go to the Cathedral of Christ to make a political statement? Why with screaming and dancing? You don’t need to go to a place that is considered sacred by many people.”

Gergiev added: “I am told by too many people that those girls are potentially a very good business proposition. Suppose that someone created all this in order to produce another touring group earning millions and millions? Anna Netrebko (acclaimed Russian soprano) didn’t need to do something like this.”

Gergiev, 59, persuaded President Putin’s government to invest 20 billion Roubles (£400 million) in a new 2,000 seat opera house for the Mariinsky, St Petersburg’s home of opera and ballet, which will open next year.

Gergiev is collaborating with James Cameron, the Avatar director, on a 3D Swan Lake, which will be broadcast from the Mariinsky live into cinemas across the world on February 14. “We have had extensive talks with James Cameron and his team to consider what we can learn from famous films like Avatar,” Gergiev said.

“They have the experience, talent and expertise. There is no team in the world that knows better how to work in a 3D environment in an opera house where you cannot stop the performance once the music has started. The cinemas will bring thousands of people together.”

The new Mariinsky will house three concert arenas featuring state-of-the-art facilities, bringing in £55 million in ticket sales next year. With the Kremlin backing Gergiev’s vision, he is unwilling to join those critical of the Putin administration’s record on human rights.

“In Russia you hear different stories about what people are interested in,” he said. “The Russian Government, the Kremlin and President Putin will continue to fight corruption. That’s the only story which worries the Russian people.”

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