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    Pressed About Putin, Russian Conductor Quits Bolshoi and French Posts


    A prominent Russian conductor said on Sunday that he would resign from his positions with two orchestras — at the storied Bolshoi Theater in Moscow and in Toulouse, France — after facing intense pressure to condemn President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    The conductor, Tugan Sokhiev, had faced demands from French officials that he clarify his position on the war before his next appearance with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse later this month. In his statement on Sunday, in which he said he would “always be against any conflicts,” Mr. Sokhiev said he felt he was being forced to pick between the two ensembles.

    “I am being asked to choose one cultural tradition over” another, Mr. Sokhiev said in the statement. “I am being asked to choose one artist over the other.”

    Both in Toulouse and at the Bolshoi, he wrote, he regularly invited Ukrainian artists. “We never even thought about our nationalities,” he wrote. “We were enjoying making music together.”

    Officials in Toulouse, where Mr. Sokhiev has served as music director of the orchestra since 2008, said they were saddened by his decision. They denied pressuring him into picking between Russia and France.

    “We never expected or, worse, demanded that Tugan make a choice between his native country and his beloved city of Toulouse,” the mayor of Toulouse, Jean-Luc Moudenc, said in a statement. “It wouldn’t have made any sense. However, it was unthinkable to imagine that he would remain silent in the face of the war situation, both vis-à-vis the musicians and the public and the community.”

    In his statement, Mr. Sokhiev said that “being forced to face the impossible option of choosing between my beloved Russian and beloved French musicians I have decided to resign from my positions” at both the Bolshoi in Moscow and Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse “with immediate effect.”

    Mr. Sokhiev’s decision comes during a tense moment in the performing arts, as some cultural institutions are putting pressure on Russian artists to distance themselves from the war and Mr. Putin. Some artists have been caught in the middle, eager to maintain their international careers but worried they could face consequences at home for denouncing Mr. Putin.

    Some institutions in the West have demanded that Russian artists issue statements against Mr. Putin as a prerequisite for performing. Others are examining social media posts to ensure performers have not made contentious statements about the war. Several organizations have dropped Russian works from their programs, including the Polish National Opera, which recently canceled a production of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.”

    Mr. Sokhiev, who was born in 1977 in the Russian city of Vladikavkaz, near the border with Georgia, and was the principal conductor of the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester in Berlin until 2016, is as of now still scheduled to appear with the New York Philharmonic starting on March 31.

    Mr. Sokhiev declined a request for comment from The New York Times. The New York Philharmonic did not immediately comment on his statement, in which he said he was concerned that Russian artists were facing discrimination.

    He wrote in the statement that he could not bear “to witness how my fellow colleagues, artists, actors, singers, dancers, directors are being menaced, treated disrespectfully and being victims of so called ‘cancel culture.’”

    “We musicians,” he added, “are the ambassadors of peace.”

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