In a move quite opposite to the fake news or denying of events in Russian media over the last weeks, the Bolshoi Theatre’s official English language newsletter opens with the announcement that its chief conductor and music director Tugan Sokhiev has decided to leave his position and that dancers Jacopo Tissi and David Motta Soares have left the ballet company.
The theatre reprints his statement in full as it appeared on the website ClassicalMusicNews.ru in Russian and in English on Sokhiev’s Facebook page on 6 March, which concludes with the conductor’s brave statement, “being forced to face the impossible choice of choosing between my beloved Russian and beloved French musicians I have decided to resign from my positions as Music Director of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Orchestre Nationale du Capitole de Toulouse with immediate effect”.
Here is Sokhiev’s full statement:
I know that many people were waiting for me to express myself and to hear from me my position on what’s happening at the moment.
It took me a while to process what is happening and how to express those complex feelings that the current events provoked in me.
First of all I need to say a most important thing: I have never supported and I will always be against any conflicts in any shape and form. For some people even to question my desire for peace and think that me, as a musician could ever speak for anything other than Peace on our planet is shocking and offensive.
During various catastrophic geopolitical events our humanity has faced during the last twenty years of my career, I always remained with my fellow musicians and we always, together, have shown and expressed the support and compassion for all the victims of those conflicts.
This is what we musicians do, we express things with music, we say emotional things with music, we comfort with music those who need it. We musicians are the lucky ones to be able to speak this international language that can sometimes express more than any words known to civilisation.
I am always very proud to be a conductor who comes from such a culturally rich country as Russia and I am also very proud to be part of the rich French musical life since 2003. This is what music does. It connects people and artists from different continents and cultures, it heals souls across the borders and gives hope for peaceful existence on this planet.
Music can be dramatic, lyrical, funny, sad but never offensive! This is what my very fruitful partnership with the great Toulouse orchestra has proved. This is what my fantastic ensemble of the Bolshoi Theatre was showing me every time I conducted performances with them in Russia or on tour in Europe.
Both in Toulouse and in the Bolshoi Theatre I regularly invited Ukrainian singers and conductors. We never even thought about our nationalities. We were enjoying making music together. And it still remains the case.
This is why I started the Franco-Russe festival in Toulouse, to show everyone that the people of France and Russia are connected historically, culturally, spiritually and musically and that I am proud of this connection between our two great countries that I love.
This festival is being opposed today by the politicians and administrators in Toulouse. What a shame. And they want me to express myself for peace! I believe that this festival can achieve more in building bridges than political words.
During the past few days, I witnessed something I thought I would never see in my life. In Europe, today I am forced to make a choice and choose one of my musical families over the other.
I am being asked to choose one cultural tradition over the over. I am being asked to choose one artist over the other. I am being asked to choose one singer over the other. I will be soon asked to choose between Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy. This is already happening in Poland, a European country, where Russian music has been forbidden.
I cannot bare to witness how my fellow colleagues, artists, actors, singers, dancers, directors are being menaced, treated disrespectfully and becoming victims of so the called “cancel culture”. We as musicians are given the extraordinary chance and mission to keep the human race kindhearted and respectful to each other by playing and interpreting those great composers. We musicians are there to remind through the music of Shostakovich about horrors of war. We musicians are the ambassadors of peace. Instead of using us and our music to unite nations and people we are being divided and ostracised.
Because of everything that I have said above and being forced to face the impossible choice of choosing between my beloved Russian and beloved French musicians I have decided to resign from my positions as Music Director of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Orchestre Nationale du Capitole de Toulouse with immediate effect.
This decision should confirm to everyone concerned that I am a very lucky person, to be able to know Bolshoi Theatre artists and Toulouse orchestra musicians. It is always a privilege to make music with all wonderful artists from those two institutions and I will always stand by them as a MUSICIAN!!!!!
On 11 March 11, Sokhiev sent out a letter to all employees of the Bolshoi Theatre:
Dear colleagues – musicians, opera and ballet soloists, artists, employees of the Bolshoi Theatre!
Now it is impossible to gather everyone together and say words of gratitude, so I am writing to you. The eight years of our work and co-creation were wonderful and fruitful. Working at the Bolshoi rewarded me with meeting high-level professionals, people who love what they do. And I am sure that life will turn in such a way that we shall meet again and work together. I would like that very much.
The Bolshoi’s newsletter goes on to mention the company dancers who have left the country:
Ballet soloists Jacopo Tissi and David Motta Soares decided to leave the Bolshoi Theatre.
Their statements for their friends and fans are published on social media.
“I cannot begin to describe how sad it was for me to leave my teachers, my colleagues and friends; special people that made me grow as an artist and as a person which I’m grateful for,” Jacopo Tissi writes.
“I’m deeply sad to say that I have left the Bolshoi Theatre my teachers my colleges my friends my family the place I called home for many years, I will never forget each one of you who supported me stayed with me through hard and good times in my life and career,” David Motta Soares writes.
The Brazilian dancer celebrated his 25th birthday on March 13.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.