City Ignores Contentious Comments from Conductor

no image
No image availableNL Times

Rotterdam has decided not to punish the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival for statements made by the group's namesake linking homosexuals and pedophiles. On Sunday, the largest party on the city council, PvdA, demanded conductor Valery Gergiev's resignation for his September comments.

But Rotterdam's Alderman for sport, recreation, arts and culture, Antoinette Laan said the festival's €266,000 grant from the city will not be clawed back. "The Gergiev Festival is subsidized because of its artistic qualities," Laan said in a statement released by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra."

Conductor Valery Gergiev leads the orchestra during the 2011 Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival (Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest/Flickr)

"Based on information currently available to us we have no reason to either reduce or stop the subsidy."

Last September, Gergiev was asked by the Volkskrant to comment on a new Russian law forbidding homosexual "propaganda." He said, "In Russia, we do everything to protect children from pedophiles. This law is not about homosexuality, but is against pedophilia."

Laan's comments were a response to a PvdA statement saying that the municipality should not hand out public money to those "who do not respect fundamental human rights," and who do not respect the sexual orientation of others. PvdA leads a city council coalition including VVD, D66 and CDA.

The conductor's concert with the London Symphony Orchestra was protested by gay rights advocates in November. Gergiev, who reportedly has a close friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has said his comments were taken entirely out of context.

Gergiev's comments, and the reaction it stirred up in the Netherlands, is one of many events that strained the Netherlands' relationship with Russia in 2013. President Putin was met with a large protest in Amsterdam due to the new propaganda law, which was continued during the city's Gay Pride parade in August. One of the country's diplomats also claimed police brutality when he was investigated for a domestic disturbance. He and his family returned to Russia earlier this month.

Russia's arrest of a few dozen Greenpeace activists also stoked tensions, and the country is currently considering a ban on the importation of Dutch dairy products.