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12 Nov, 2022 11:41

La Scala responds to call to 'cancel' Russian composers

The opera house says that works of culture should not suffer because of the Ukraine conflict
La Scala responds to call to 'cancel' Russian composers

Milan's famed La Scala theater has insisted that Russian culture should not be “penalized” because of the military operation against Ukraine.

Managerment defended its decision to include the works of Russian composers in its newest program after a Ukrainian consul called them instruments of Moscow’s propaganda campaign.

According to Italian news agency ANSA, Andrey Kartysh, Ukraine’s consul general in Milan, sent a letter to La Scala CEO Dominique Meyer, as well as Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala and the head of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, asking to “review” its program for the 2022-2023 season in order to avoid “potential elements of propaganda.” 

The diplomat cited the “great disappointment and regret” of the Ukrainian community in Italy. “Culture is being used by the Russian Federation to lend weight to its assertions of greatness and power,” he wrote, arguing that “the pandering to its propaganda can only fuel the image of the regime [in Moscow] and, by extension, its evil ambitions and countless crimes.”

La Scala plans to kick off its newest season on December 7 with the opera ‘Boris Godunov’ by 19th-century Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. The opera is about a Russian tsar who ruled during the Time of Trouble, a period of political upheaval and turbulence in early 17th century Russia.

The program also includes ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet, whose score was written by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and a recital by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko.

La Scala Music Director Riccardo Chailly defended the decision to show ‘Boris Godunov’ on stage. “To remove a masterpiece… is to penalize the culture,” he argued, as quoted by the newspaper Corriere della Sera on Saturday.

“Art should not pay for the havoc of what has been happening after February 24,” Chailly said, referring to the date that Russia launched its military operation in the neighboring state. He added that discarding the works of Mussorgsky or poet and novelist Alexander Pushkin would be like discarding the works of Shakespeare or Dante.

Chailly noted that the opera house expressed support for Ukraine early on in the conflict and raised €380,000 ($393,000) for Ukrainian refugees in April.

Stage director Francesco Micheli, who sits on La Scala’s governing board, called the Ukrainian consul general’s request “reckless,” saying that he “ignores that the opera has no connection with the situation” in his home country.

“I think La Scala sees the program as a way to show the unifying value of culture. That is why La Scala should be praised,” Italian Under Secretary of State for Culture Vittorio Sgarbi said.

Several cultural events associated with Russia have been scrapped in the West due to the conflict. In March, the Polish National Opera in Warsaw canceled the premiere of ‘Boris Godunov’, while the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra removed Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’ from its concerts.