Valery Gergiev has made what appears to be a campaign ad for Vladimir Putin, who is expected to win Sunday's contentious presidential elections in Russia. Gergiev runs the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and is the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra as well as being a sought-after guest conductor in New York. The video is posted on Putin's official YouTube channel.
According to a translation that music critic Alex Ross posted, Gergiev says, "When I'd present my passport, in 1999, on, say, the American border, I felt that people might not ... reckon with me. 'Oh, Russia...?' And tossed to the side. Since then, that hasn't happened. One needs to be able to hold oneself ... presidentially ... so that people reckon with the country. I don't know if it's fear? Respect? Reckoning."
Other artists to voice their support for Putin include soprano Anna Netrebko, pianist Denis Matsuev and violist Yuri Bashmet. Netrebko made headlines last year when tabloids claimed she was Putin's former lover. She denied this but said in a Newsweek interview that she wishes she'd had the chance: "I'd have loved to have been ... he's a very attractive man. Such a strong, male energy."
Among the Putin opposition camp is the New Russian Quartet, the resident string quartet of the Moscow Conservatory who performed a protest in December, and Mikhail Arkadiev, a classical pianist, composer and conductor.