Soprano Karita Mattila speaks out against conductor Valery Gergiev’s support of Vladimir Putin.

World-renowned Finnish soprano Karita Mattila has publically refused to sing under the direction of Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, as tensions between Russia and the rest of the world manifested themselves at Carnegie Hall.

Karita Mattila criticized Gergiev for his close ties and support of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s policies relating to art, artists, homosexuality and the country’s national borders policy. Mattila informed organizers that she would not sing at the concert last month if it were to be conducted by Gergiev, necessitating the conductor Fabio Luisi to take over the role.

The program, dedicated to the music of Richard Strauss, was performed at Carnegie Hall and initially was due to be conducted by Lorin Maazel, the current chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. However, after Maazel took sick esteemed Russian conductor, and future musical director for the Munich Philharmonic, Valery Gergiev flew in to take over the program.

Gergiev, due to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in Australia later this year, has come in for widespread criticism for his support and close ties to Vladimir Putin in many quarters. Though Gergiev only ended up conducting the first of the two concerts, the performance was met with protests outside Carnegie Hall. Demonstrators reportedly chanted slogans that included “Carnegie hired Putin’s puppet” and “Gergiev out of New York”.

This was not the first time such criticism has been leveled at the conductor, but so far he has offered little in response except to release a statement, saying "I do not discriminate against anyone, gay or otherwise, and never have done."