The Dvořák Prague International Music Festival will be held in Prague on September 2-21, 2018. First held in 2008, this annual festival is still quite young but has already won recognition. Its main goal is to popularize Czech music using the works of Antonin Dvořák, his contemporaries and students. Past performers include world famous musicians and orchestras like the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the opera baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, the pianist Evgeny Kissin, the violinists Vadim Repin and Julian Rachlin, the cellist Jiří Barta, and others.
However, this year’s concert program features a rather peculiar performer best known for something completely unrelated to her musical skills. On Wednesday, September 19, 2018, performing in the Dvořák hall of the Rudolfinum Palace of Prague will be Valentina Lisitsa. She is an American pianist of Ukrainian origin, and her main claim to fame is her anti-Ukrainian stance. Incidentally, it is not entirely clear how her performance is related to the main theme of the festival – only the works of Schubert, Liszt, Ravel, and Mussorgsky are included in her program.
After the Revolution of dignity and the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014, Lisitsa consistently began to support the anti-Ukrainian policy of Putin’s Russia. Because of this, in July 2016, she was added to the Myrotvorets (Peacemaker) Center database:
Accomplice of Russian terrorists in the Donbas (Ukraine).
Public justification of terrorism, propaganda of hatred against various ethnic and social groups such as: Ukrainians, African-Americans, people with disabilities, and also Holocaust survivors. Conducts a consistent anti-Ukrainian campaign on Twitter, supports the aggressive policy of Putin’s Russia in an armed confrontation with Ukraine in the East of Ukraine, is a supporter of the annexation of the Crimea in March 2014. Illegally crossed the Ukrainian-Russian border at an uncontrolled site in Rostov Oblast, Russia. In June 2015, she gave a piano concert in Donetsk.
The entry also includes a document titled “The Schedule of the stay of Valentina Lisitsa in the Donetsk People’s Republic”, with the most prominent item being “Dinner with the leadership of the Republic”.
In his report written for the Russian language service of Radio Freedom, the New York political commentator, poet and publicist Alexei Tsvetkov gives the following description of Lisitsa’s “public position”: “Ukrainians in general she calls “ukropiteks”, patriotic Ukrainians she equates to “dog shit”, and she put a photo of Africans in a ritual dance and appropriate dress next to the photo of Odesa teachers in national costumes – a gesture, obviously not designed to flatter either Ukrainians or Africans”.
Video of the Oplot TV channel on the tour of Valentina Lisitsa in Donetsk in June 2015.
Finally, the concert tour in the “DPR” mentioned in the Peacemaker’s database wasn’t the last one. In April 17-23, 2016, the pianist toured in different cities of the occupied territory of Donbas – Debaltseve, Horlivka, Ilovaysk, Shakhtarsk, completing the tour with a concert at the Donetsk Opera House. Here is how she described her performances in the Donbas to a TASS reporter: “Here people are very thankful to Russia for the humanitarian aid, the support of refugees, and much more. How we, Ukrainians, can now thank Russia? I couldn’t offer much, and decided to give my thanks with the concert performances”.
The latest concert tour by Lisitsa in the “DPR” occurred in September 2017 – the page of the “Ministry of Culture of the DPR” on Facebook offers the full text of her answers to the journalists at a press conference in Donetsk in September 6, 2017.
The schedules of Lisitsa’s visits to the “People’s Republics” were quite varied – meetings with cultural workers, master classes for students and teachers, participation in the ceremony at the Savur Mohyla memorial complex on the occasion of the anniversary of the liberation of the Donbas.
Lisitsa also didn’t forget about the occupied Crimea. On September 17-24, 2017, together with the Donetsk Philharmonic Orchestra, she took part in the Classical Music Festival, which was held in various Crimean cities – Simferopol, Yalta, Foros, Yevpatoria.
The post on the Facebook page of the “Administration of Makiivka” describing the press conference in Donetsk on September 6, 2017, states that one of the most important topics of the conference was “the role of art in reporting the truth about the situation in the DPR to the world community.” Lisitsa noted the “tendency of the destruction of the propaganda wall, which has been built up by the Western media over the past three years”: “People are very interested in the events in the Donbas, they are less trusting of what the western press says. Now they understand that the events in Ukraine are no different from the situation in Syria, Iraq. It is an artificially created chaos, and every person should take a certain position, it is impossible to take no sides.”
Russian propaganda channels repeatedly used Lisitsa in their reports. One striking example is the video “Conscience did not allow Lisitsa to leave quietly”, which was shown on the Russia-24 channel on April 19, 2015 (incidentally filmed in Prague):
In an interview to the German publication Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten dated January 19, 2015, Lisitsia said: “Azov Battalion is actually a very right-wing radical organization. During the civil war, the members of Azov committed numerous atrocities. It will not be an exaggeration to say that they are a match to ISIS in cruelty. They make videos of their atrocities. They are not average Ukrainians. They are indoctrinated and serve oligarchs.”
In April 2015, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra terminated a contract with Lisitsa (after paying for it) for the planned performance of Rachmaninoff’s Concerto no.2. Explaining the motives of this decision, the management of the orchestra noted that it had received a large number of complaints about Lisitsa’s internet posts, and therefore under the existing circumstances her performance was not possible. In particular, it mentioned that in her Twitter account she repeatedly referred to the current Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people in deeply offensive ways.
Soon after that, the Dutch airline KLM followed suit and in August 2015 it decided to remove Lisitsa’s records from the flight entertainment program. The reason was an official complaint about her support of Russian terrorists, which came from a group that opposes the artists supporting Vladimir Putin. Subsequently, KLM independently investigated Lisitsa’s internet activity and came to a similar conclusion.
Similar experiences were shared by other artists who supported Putin’s aggression.
On November 13, 2017, a “Concert of Unity” was announced at the Washington Cathedral of Peter and Paul, organized by the Embassy of Russia. The headliners were the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev and the pianist Denis Matsuev. Both in 2014 signed a petition of cultural leaders to the Russian public declaring their support of Vladimir Putin’s position on Ukraine and the Crimea. The letter proclaims: “In the days when the fate of Crimea and our compatriots is being decided, Russian cultural figures cannot be indifferent observers with cold hearts. Our common history and common roots, our culture and its spiritual sources, our fundamental values and language brought us together forever. We want the community of our peoples and our cultures to have a lasting future. That is why we firmly declare our support of the position of the President of the Russian Federation on Ukraine and Crimea.” Shortly after signing the petition, Gergiev gave several interviews, in which he stated that the power in Ukraine was now in the hands of Nazis, and that Russian music performances had been banned in Kyiv. Activists in Washington and Boston launched protests against the concert. In response, on September 8, 2017, the Atlantic Council published an opinion by Diane Francis: “This performance is not about art, but propaganda. The Unity Concert insults Ukrainians and is an affront to American values.” It was not possible to cancel the concert at that time, but, while in Washington, in response to the Voice of America journalist’s question, Gergiev denied signing the petition.
Similar protests also took place in New York and Boston, as well as before Matsuev’s concerts in October 2016 (in New York he performed at the Carnegie Hall). The protesters wanted American concert organizations to address the ethics of further cooperation with Russian artists that “support the aggressive and repressive regime of President Vladimir Putin.” According to the participants of the action, several viewers who came to the concert decided not to go to the performance.
The leader of many protest actions in the USA was a pianist of Ukrainian origin, a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory Pavel Gintov. In his opinion, “There are people who believe that art has no connection to politics, that it’s not necessary for a artist to get involved in something, to say something. They should stay home, do music. To me, this position seems completely immoral, because this is not some abstract political discussion. I don’t know anything about politics and I’m not interested in it. This is about injustice and crimes, about the war and the deaths of people. About things, which the artist, in my opinion, has no right to ignore and remain uninvolved. Art is the reflection of human life. If such things happen in life and art doesn’t reflect them, and just serves as background music, some entertainment, then it’s bullshit, not art. I am convinced that the task of each artist is to react with immediacy to such terrible things when they occur.”
Gintov described his impressions of his own protest of a concert of the Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by Gergiev on January 27, 2015 on his Facebook page: “Today, something incredibly disgusting has happened. Namely – I had a chance to talk with the musicians of the Mariinsky Orchestra. As one pretty girl with a violin was passing by, she looked into my eyes, smiled sweetly, and said: “When will you all fucking die!” Others said “Go get to work!”, “Get back to Khokholland!” (“khokhol” is a derogatory name for Ukrainians in Russian language). And another one yelled: “And soon Alaska will be ours too!” One musicion decided to get into an argument, we told him that we were not protesting against the orchestra, but only against Gergiev, but his friend pulled him away saying, “Why are you talking to them? They are fucking crazy.” Another group of musicians with instruments were talking loudly about us and laughing. I said to them, “Are you laughing? Do you know how many people have died?” One replied with a laugh, “And in Africa, thousands of people die every day, so what?” These are musicians. These are young people who have graduated from or are studying at a conservatory. They are the ones who played today at the Carnegie Hall. It’s gloom, horror and madness.”
In addition to Gergiev and Matsuev, activists in the United States also protested against performances of the violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov.
If the attempts to cancel the performances of odious classical musicians who support the Russian government in its aggression towards Ukraine largely failed, some more success was achieved in other artistic genres. So on March 27, 2018, the Belarusian version of InformNapalm reported about an announced concert on March 28 in the Drama Theater of the city of Grodno of the bard Alexei Nezhevets – a true advocate and propagandist of the “Russian world”, a supporter of the occupation of the Ukrainian territory by the Russian Federation and an accomplice of the militants of illegal armed units. The article provided contact information of the theater management and government organizations that could influence the situation. The protests of public activists reached its goal – the next day it became known that the concert had been canceled.
Finally, in Ukraine such cases have been regulated to some extent at the state level. For instance, based on the Law of Ukraine “On amendments to some laws of Ukraine regarding the protection of the informational television and radio space of Ukraine”, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine compiled the list of persons who pose a threat to national security. This blacklist includes 83 mostly Russian artists who have been banned from entry into Ukraine for their political positions and views on the Revolution of Dignity of 2013-2014.
Going back to Valentina Lisitsa, Pavel Gintov had this to say about her activities: “I can hardly say that Valentine Lisitsa has a certain position. She writes clearly hateful things, she mocks Ukraine, its culture, its language. I do not consider this a position, I consider it a kind of clinical case. She was born in Ukraine, lived in the United States for a long time, and writes with such hatred. I do not understand her, I do not understand the nature of this phenomenon. I do not want to argue with her. This is not a confrontation. I have nothing to say to her.”
This is how it is – Russian propaganda has already broken the lives and brains of many. However, while some respond to its calls because they sincerely believe, and the slogans of Russian propagandists resonate with their own ideals and worldviews, some others quite consciously use such “clinical cases” as weapons in the hybrid information warfare in the interests of the Kremlin. Although the organizers of Dvořák Prague Festival are likely unaware, Russian propaganda and its supporters in the Czech Republic will not miss the opportunity to take advantage of the performance of the pianist. In the breaks between rehearsals she will likely tell reporters (there will be enough interested – from the Parlamentní listy to Halo noviny newspapers) about fascism in Ukraine, about the ruthless banderists from the Right Sector who crucify little boys, and about the heroic people of the Donbas fighting for their survival.
In conclusion, it’s hard to disagree with Diane Francis: this is not so much art as propaganda. And to continue her words – the performance of Valentina Lisitsa in Prague is unacceptable. Because it is a slap to the large Ukrainian community of the Czech Republic, and all those who suffered from Russian aggression.
For all active citizens who want to stop Valentina Lisitsa’s performance at Dvořák Prague Festival in September 2018, we invite you to reach out to the organizers of the festival, whose contact details are given below, or sign a petition (in Czech).
· Against the participation of the pianist Valentina Lysitsa in Dvořák Prague Festival in 2018
The program of Dvořak Prague Festival includes the performance by the pianist Valentina Lisitsa on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at the Dvorak hall of Prague Rudolfinum. The pianist is known for condoning the occupation of Ukrainian territory by Russia and for openly supporting Russian terrorists in the Donbas, evidenced, in particular, by a number of performances in the occupied territories. In her Twitter account, Lisitsa systematically posts hateful and derogatory statements about the current authorities of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. For more details see article: https://informnapalm.org/cz/dvorakova-praha-klavirni-tony-russkeho-miru/
It is necessary to point out that the undeclared war, launched against Ukraine by the Russian regime, has already taken over ten thousand human lives, and this number is rising almost every day. Russian propaganda is claiming that this is a civil war, but the InformNapalm international intelligence community has already gathered an array of evidence of the participation in the conflict of dozens of units of the Russian Armed Forces, mainly professional military personnel, and also recorded the presence in the occupied territories of Ukraine of dozens of types of modern Russian weapons and equipment, which were never supplied to Ukraine and could not be captured in battles with the Ukrainian Army. The evidence database can be found here: https://informnapalm.org/db/russian-aggression/#lang=cz&page=m_unit.
Given these circumstances, we, the undersigned, believe your decision to include the performance of Valentina Lisitsa in the program of Dvořak Prague this year was an unfortunate mistake and call for the cancellation of the concert. In our opinion, this concert is a slap to the large Ukrainian community of the Czech Republic, as well as all victims of the Russian aggression. Moreover, if this performance is held, it is very likely that Russian propaganda will use this fact in the interests of the Kremlin. We believe that concert organizations should, in the future, also take into account the ethical aspect of cooperation with artists who support Vladimir Putin’s aggressive and repressive regime.
Finally, some more information to consider. As the editorial staff of InformNapalm’s Czech edition have learned, several musicians, including former classmates of Valentina Lisitsa, who for the time being prefer to remain anonymous, came up with an idea: if Lisitsa’s performance is not canceled, an alternative concert-protest in support of Ukraine should be scheduled for the same time. On the occasion of the concert, the audience will be able to become familiar with the facts and evidence of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, Georgia and Syria. The working title of the event is “HUNTING FOR LISITSA”.
Akademie klasické hudby, z. ú. Palackého 740/1 (3rd floor) 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic phone: +420-224-946-508 [email protected]
Marek Vrabec (Marek Vrabec) is the art director of the festival [email protected]
Robert Kolář – director of the Academy of Classical Music [email protected]
Radek Křižanovský – art planning manager [email protected]
Translated by Andrii Grygansky, edited by Max Alginin
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