When the Wiener Festwochen, a prestigious festival that brings leading international artists to Vienna, announced this spring’s lineup, the backlash was swift and fierce.
The festival had planned to make the Russian invasion of Ukraine a focus of its programming, juxtaposing an appearance by the Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv with a concert by the maestro Teodor Currentzis, who has faced scrutiny over his connections to Russia. Critics, including Lyniv, had argued that the pairing was insensitive and ignored the suffering of Ukrainians.
Now, after weeks of pressure, the festival has abandoned its plan, saying that it would cancel the appearance by Currentzis while moving forward with the one by Lyniv.
“The decision was clear and there was no alternative,” Milo Rau, the festival’s artistic director, said in an interview on Tuesday. “This was the best solution from bad ones.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, many cultural organizations have severed ties with close associates of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and the government there. Some institutions have been criticized for overreach after canceling performances by Russian artists with no known connections to the government. Others have grappled with how to handle artists who had less clear-cut allegiances.
Currentzis, a Greek-born, Russian-trained maestro whose leadership of the Russian ensemble MusicAeterna turned him into one of the world’s most prominent conductors, has been at the center of the discussion because of his relationship with VTB Bank, a Russian state-owned institution that has been under sanctions by the United States and other countries. VTB Bank was the main sponsor of MusicAeterna. Currentzis has also drawn scrutiny for his association with Russian officials: In 2014, Putin awarded Currentzis citizenship by presidential decree.
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