Is an artist allowed to be apolitical? The designated chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra is under fire.
The gay-lesbian voter initiative Rosa Liste (Pink List) has called for protests before a concert by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. The group criticizes the homophobic policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin - a friend of the orchestra's designated chief conductor Valery Gergiev. Human rights activists and gay and lesbian rights associations have said that Gergiev has not distanced himself enough from Putin.
The bone of contention is a Russian law that forbids citizens to speak positively about homosexuality in front of children. In a newspaper interview, the Russian star conductor said that the law was intended to impair pedophiles. "To me, that means that Gergiev, on the one hand, is trivializing the law, and on the other, is placing homosexuals next to child molesters and rapists," said Rita Braaz, of Munich's Rosa Liste. "That's unacceptable."
At a hastily called press conference, Gergiev stressed that discrimination has no place in the artistic community. "If someone is discriminated against in my company, and I don't say anything, it's my responsibility." But he also said he's a musician, and not a politician, and could only speak for his own area of activity.
Whether that's enough to calm the waters in Munich is doubtful. In a bid for clarity, three political factions in Munich's city council submitted an motion for an emergency meeting on Wednesday. That brings up the question about whether there is a "Plan B" - should Gergiev not be in a position to take the helm of the orchestra in 2015.