New East Digital Archive

Toronto Symphony Orchestra drops Ukraine-born pianist over anti-Kiev post

Toronto Symphony Orchestra drops Ukraine-born pianist over anti-Kiev post

8 April 2015

Ukraine-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa has been dropped from her upcoming performance with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) due to her support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The pianist, who has used her Twitter account to condemn the Ukrainian government and “Ukrainian-Nazis”, was replaced by another pianist for the upcoming performance due to the “ongoing accusations of deeply offensive language by Ukrainian media outlets”, TSO’s President and CEO Jeff Melanson said in a statement.

In a post on her Facebook page on Monday, Lisitsa appealed to fans for support, slamming attempts from “haters…[who are] trying…to teach me a lesson…to silence me as a musician”. Lisitsa added: “Yes, Toronto Symphony is going TO PAY ME NOT TO PLAY because I exercised the right to free speech. Yes, they will be pay my fee but they are going to announce that I will be unable to play and they already found a substitute. And they even threatened me against saying anything about the cause of the cancellation. Seriously.”

In yesterday’s Facebook post, Lisitsa’s wrote that she has been “watching helplessly how the country of my birth” has been sliding “ever faster into the abyss”, and that she had taken to social media “to get the other side of the story heard, the one you never see in the mainstream media — the plight of my people, the good and bad things that were happening in Ukraine”. Lisitsa, an ethnic Russian, accuses the TSO, an orchestra based in “one of the freest democratic countries”, of trying “to assassinate me — not as living person yet, but as a MUSICIAN for sure”.

The TSO’s decision to drop Lisitsa has sparked a media storm, tagged #LetValentinaPlay.