Putin ally Gergiev takes over Bolshoi Theatre from war critic Urin


Russian conductor Valery Gergiev (standing) is seen with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra on stage during the Summer Night Concert in the setting of Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna in September 2020. Photo: Reuters

Renowned conductor Valery Gergiev, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, will replace Vladimir Urin at the helm of Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre after the latter resigned following criticism of the war in Ukraine.

Gergiev has been appointed general director of Russia's largest state theatre for a period of five years, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced in Moscow on Friday.

He also runs the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and is the founder of several festivals.

Gergiev, 70, lost his post as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra a few days after Putin's all-out invasion of Ukraine began because he had failed to speak out forcefully against the war.

Urin was relieved from the post at his own request following Friday's government announcement, a move that had been expected.

"Today I am saying goodbye to you, as today is my last day working at the Bolshoi Theatre," the 76-year-old told staff in a video that began circulating on social media on Thursday. A theatre spokeswoman confirmed its authenticity to dpa.

Urin was among the Russian cultural figures who called for an end to the fighting in Ukraine in a open letter published last year.

Many Bolshoi artists ended their engagement at the theatre - either at their own doing or by force - due to the war and the resulting Western sanctions.

Urin, who commands huge stature in the Russian theatre world and beyond, took over the management of the Bolshoi in 2013. His contract was due to run until 2027.

Russian media had recently reported that Putin himself had insisted on Urin's dismissal. The official line was that Urin asked to step down himself.

The government rejected concerns that the Moscow and St Petersburg theatres could be merged.

"That will not happen. The Bolshoi and Mariinsky theatres will continue to exist as they have until now," said deputy prime minister Tatyana Golikova. - dpa

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Russia , Moscow , Bolshoi Theatre , Ukraine , war , theatre


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