Friday, April 18, 2014


Transmission

On Pussy Riot, Gergiyev Channels Shakespeare (And Putin)

Valery Gergiyev (left), artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin  open the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in June 2011.
Valery Gergiyev (left), artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater, and Russian leader Vladimir Putin open the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in June 2011.
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Valery Gergiyev, the head of Russia's famed Mariinsky Theater, looks like he's been brushing up on his Shakespeare.

In Act 3, Scene 1 of "Hamlet," the forever moody title character tells the poor, confused Ophelia, "Get thee to a nunnery."

When asked by RFE/RL for his take on the Pussy Riot trial and the stiff punishments meted out to members of the dissident female punk group, Gergiyev appeared to channel the playwright.

"I was, myself, not so interested in hearing how the court [would decide]," he said. "I thought that maybe they will find time in their lives to spend, I don't know, maybe a few months, maybe a few weeks, in one of the monasteries, and maybe they will come out of this experience, in case they find it important, slightly different persons."

The maestro was speaking at a lavish gala in celebration of Russian culture on October 25 at the Library of Congress in Washington, an event funded in part by the Russian Embassy.

Judging by the "punk prayer" the rockers performed in February in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral -- a song in protest of President Vladimir Putin and the close links between church and state in Russia -- the jailed Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova might have found convent confinement an even harsher punishment than what they received.

According to their lawyer, the women arrived this week at their respective penal colonies east of Moscow, where they will serve out two-year sentences for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."

The sentences were roundly condemned by rights groups, which warned of a broader crackdown on freedom of expression in Russia. Western governments described the sentencing as "disproportionate."

Results from a new national poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Study Center  found that nearly a third of respondents could not rule out that the sentencing was meant to intimidate the opposition and boost the president's authority.

Thirty-seven percent said the sentence was meant to strengthen Orthodox values in society, while 36 percent described it as means of distracting the public from other social and economic concerns.

A third Pussy Riot member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed by an appeals court earlier this month. In theory, then, she still has a chance to trade in her colorful balaclava for more pious garb.

Echoing Putin

This summer, a false report claiming that Gergiyev had threatened to step down as the Mariinsky's leader in protest of Pussy Riot's treatment went viral.

In Washington, the real Gergiyev suggested that the group's protest act was destructive in an almost physical sense.

"Why [do] you have to do something in the biggest church of a big country? If you want to do something artistically or politically motivated, you may do it in some other place, because Russia is a country where many, many churches were destroyed. I mean many -- not one, not two, not 10 -- very many," he said.

"So for the pride of people, ordinary people, simple people, to see something happening in a church which was recently restored -- and we know very well that many of those who don't make millions of dollars, whose living is very, very modest, also contributed to the restoration of this biggest church. What do you think these people feel?"

Putin has used similar language, saying that the court ruled correctly in the Pussy Riot case because "it is impermissible to undermine our moral foundations, moral values, to try to destroy the country."

Gergiyev, who is also the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, has a well-documented friendship with the Russian leader.

When asked by RFE/RL if he saw the space for artistic expression shrinking in Russia, he referred to his own experience at the Mariinsky, which is said to receive substantial support from the president's office.

"Not 20 years ago, when I started -- 23 years, to be precise -- not 20 days, not 20 months ago, [has] someone tried to limit what we want to do," he said.

-- Richard Solash

Tags: Pussy Riot

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Comments
     
by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
October 28, 2012 05:47
This is the meanest man Gergiev...
When in 2008 South Ossetian bandits began to burn Georgian schools and kindergartens to plunder Georgian cemeterys and burn books of Hugo Druon, Tolstoy,this fellow arrived in Tskhinvali with his ensemble to play the symphony in support of Putin's order for the destruction and looting of Georgian villages.

Can you imagine the picture:
оssetian bandits and marauders on tractors loaded with stolen property of Georgians passing by Gergiev who with a sinister smile, waving with his stick.
Normal people will not give him a hand, and these hypocrites in Europe and the United States invited him to tour.
You tell people the truth,that on the day of his performance, with his music Gergiev muffled groans of the wounded Georgians and how under this music оssetian bandits finished them...

This of course, Mr.Richard Solash, you will not be able to write It's called now- political correctness....
political correctness is not telling the truth...
And your superiors will not allow you to write the truth...it is a policy-))))

In Response

by: Raptor from: USA
October 28, 2012 18:45
Good comment. Unfortunately, our government is corrupt and has Russian mob controlling it via blackmail and prostitution. That is why Georgia was portrayed as an aggressor in the conflict. Those maestros, scientists, PhD students, and other garbage visiting the USA are pro-Putin KGB cronies coming here only with one purpose which is industrial espionage.

by: MEJ from: USA
October 29, 2012 04:23
I admired Gergiyev ever since I heard his concert for Tskinvali in 2008, when he was trying to raise funds to rebuild that shattered city. I think he is a principled man and a great conductor, and I hope to see him and his orchestra next time he tours USA.

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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