“Matsuev test” passed!

Once again, Italian society demonstrated to be much better than pro-Putin Italian theatres’ directors.

Another win for Italian activist in Italy against pro-Putin Russian artists, and their (many) pro-Putin allies in Italian theatres.

After the successful campaigns against exhibitions of Polunin and Lisitsa, canceled in Milan and Venice, three different Italian theatres had to cancel concerts of Denis Matsuev, “Putin’s pianist”, planned in May. But it was not their choice, they were forced to cancel by local politicians.

Shamefully, Matsuev’s concert were included in the program by Teatro Carlo Felice and Giovine Orchestra Genovese in Genoa, and Festival Pianistico in Brescia Bergamo.

Apparently, these theatres did not care that Matsuev was one of the Russian artists who signed the open letter supporting the Russian invasion of Crimea, and Putin’s aggression on Ukraine,and that Matsuev has also been a longtime friend and supporter of Putin, whom he has always praised, even in interviews granted to the Western press.

For this reason, and not for his nationality, Matsuev’s concerts were already canceled in the United Statesin Switzerlandin Spainin Japan and in Austria, and also by the European Union Youth Orchestra. And for this reason, since 24 February 2022, Denis Matsuev has not held a single performance in any western country: but Teatro Carlo Felice, Giovine Orchestra Genoveseand Festival Pianistico of Brescia and Bergamo did not care, and they were quite happy to be the first to host a declared Putin’s supporter, sponsored by Gazprom, in a democratic country since the beginning of the aggression war against Ukraine.

Once again, many Italians were horrified by the theatre’s lack of empathy and ethics: there were messages on social media, there was a petition on Change.org collecting almost 1500 signatures, there were newspapers asking question and writing about it, but theatres refused to listen, and Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova also refused to answer the questions from journalists. 

Finally, only when the Ukrainian ambassador in Italy wrote to the Majors of Brescia and Bergamo, in February, the citizens of Brescia and Bergamo realized. Giorgio Gori and Emilio Del Bono, majors of Bergamo and Brescia, replied together to the Ukrainian ambassador, and their letter is powerful:

We have carefully evaluated which decision was correct, certainly it is not in doubt our unwavering support for the cause of the Ukrainian people, forced to defend their homeland from Russian invasion, but we also believe that culture, as the bearer of values of humanity and beauty, should be able to enjoy a freedom of expression not conditioned by the conflicts affecting the political sphere.

However, the case of Denis Matsuev is different. We have collected information – starting from what yourself reported – and we believe that the repeated and explicit support that Matsuev has expressed towards Putin’s policy, from the invasion of Crimea to the modification of the Constitution in view of the establishment of an autocratic regime, without the slightest distancing from the choice to invade the Ukrainian territory, define a profile that is no longer just artistic, but fully “political” of the Russian pianist. After all, this is it the reason that he has led major theaters and festivals around the world – from New York’s Carnegie Hall to Konzerthaus in Vienna, from the Lucerne Festival to the Municipal House in Prague – to cancel the scheduled Matsuev performances.

Out of respect for the suffering suffered by the Ukrainian people, to whom we feel more than ever neighbors, we therefore asked the Presidency and the Artistic Direction of the International Piano Festival of Brescia and Bergamo to suspend the concerts by Denis Matsuev which had been included in the 2023 program.

And only after this letter from the Majors, the organizers of Festival Pianistico “accepted” to remove Matsuev from the program: “The Festival accepts the invitation of Majors Giorgio Gori and Emilio Del Bono to suspend the concerts of Denis Matsuev”, which looks like saying “it was not our decision”.

And Pier Carlo Orizio, artistic director of the Festival, declared that it was “very painful” to cancel the performance of Matsuev.Apparently, he really wanted to host Putin’s long-time friend.

And one day later, also Teatro Carlo Felice and Giovine Orchestra Genovese canceled the concert in Genova: and details were not public, but also in this case organizers declared that they “followed the orders” of the local authorities: “adhering to the requests expressed by our authorities and by the Carlo Felice Theater Foundation, we decided to postpone to another season the concert by pianist Denis Matsuev”.

So, Italian theatres and artistic associations of Genova, Brescia and Bergamo were really sad that they cannot host a Putin’s supporter.

And the Russian embassy in Italy was very sad, too. In a tweet, they complained: “Will the Ukrainian Embassy in Italy continue to censor Italian concert halls and theatres?” (of course, they forgot the letter of the Majors, who are not Ukrainians ….).

And few days later, on February 17th, Italian Ambassador to Russia was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where “Russian side expressed to the head of the diplomatic mission the bewilderment in connection with the recent cancellation of performances by a number of Russian performers in Italy“(surprising: Russian previous statements were that “art and politics should be separated” ….)

The story of Matsuev, after those of Polunin and Lisitsa, seems to confirm the statement of Le Monde: “In fact, Russia retains influence in the arts in Italy.” they wrote, mentioning Anna Netrebko, another artist banned in the USA but still welcome in Italy. But Italian civil society is quite strong, too, and it will continue to support Ukraine.


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