A prominent Russian leader said on Sunday he would resign his positions with two orchestras – at the famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and Toulouse, France – after facing intense pressure to condemn President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The conductor, Tojan Sukhiv, had faced demands from French officials to clarify his position on the war before his upcoming appearance with the Orchester National du Capitole de Toulouse later this month. In his statement on Sunday, in which he said he would “always be against any struggles,” Mr Sukhyev said he felt compelled to choose between the two groups.
“I have been asked to choose one cultural tradition over another,” Mr. Sukhev said in the statement. “I am being asked to choose one artist over the other.”
He wrote, both in Toulouse and in the Bolshoi, regularly invited Ukrainian artists. “We never thought about our nationalities,” he wrote. “We used to enjoy making music together.”
Officials in Toulouse, where Mr Sukhiev has served as the orchestra’s music director since 2008, said they were saddened by his decision. They denied pressure on him to pick between Russia and France.
“We never expected, or worse still, to ask Toulouse to choose between his country of origin and his beloved city of Toulouse,” Toulouse Mayor Jean-Luc Modenc said in a statement. “It had no meaning. However, it was not unreasonable to imagine that he would remain silent in the face of a state of war, whether towards the musicians, the public, or society.”
Mr. Sukhev’s decision comes during Tense moment in the performing artsSome cultural institutions are putting pressure on Russian artists to distance themselves from the war and from Mr. Putin. Some artists have fallen in the middle, eager to maintain their international careers, but wary of facing consequences back home for their denunciation of Mr. Putin.
Some institutions in the West have demanded that Russian artists make statements against Mr. Putin as a prerequisite for the performance. Others are checking social media posts to ensure that performers have not made controversial statements about the war. Several organizations have dropped Russian works from their programs, including the Polish National Opera, which recently canceled a production of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.”
Mr. Sukhev, who was born in 1977 in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, near the border with Georgia, and was the lead conductor of the Deutsche Symphony-Orchester in Berlin until 2016, is still scheduled to appear today with New York. Orchestra orchestra starting March 31.
Mr. Sukhiv declined a request for comment from The New York Times. New York Philharmonic did not immediately comment on his statement, in which it said it was concerned that Russian artists faced discrimination.
In the statement, he wrote that he could not bear to “watch how my fellow classmates, artists, actors, singers, dancers, and directors are being threatened, treated with disrespect, and are victims of a so-called abolition culture.”
“We musicians are ambassadors of peace,” he added.