A Toronto hall has booked Valentina Lisitsa for 2016

A Toronto hall has booked Valentina Lisitsa for 2016


norman lebrecht

April 12, 2015

Koerner Hall, the finest acoustic venue in Toronto, has a concert booked with Valentina Lisitsa in April 2016.

Its executive director, Mervon Mehta, is not the kind of guy to buckle to lobby-group pressure. Lisitsa says she intends to continue tweeting about the Ukraine situation, supporting the Putin position.

The issues of freedom of performance and freedom of expression will return to Toronto a year from now.



  • milka says:

    I believe it is a hall that can be rented by anyone, as much as Town Hall in NYC can be
    had for whatever rental price . The Koerner has less seating capacity …….
    It is a great little hall for those that cannot fill the other two larger halls . The TSO
    was quite a different affair and I am sure she will make hay out of this .I don’t believe
    one can refuse rental of the hall if open dates are available .Mehta knows the publicity
    for the hall will pay off well … a buck is a buck never mind the dead …………

    • Mircho says:

      “…a buck is a buck never mind the dead…” – do you suggest that Ms. Lisitsa herself pulls the triggers, and hence, helps Ukrainian army in killing numerous civilians in Donetsk and Lugansk? Or, she is the one, not the Ukrainian nationalist thugs, that murdered over forty civilians in Odessa, whose only “crime” was that they exercised their legitimate right to protest for the rights of russian speaking people in the city? We congratulate Mervon Mehta for standing up against those who love censorship in this country.

  • Kiera says:

    Awesome news. Freedom to music!!!

  • Alexei Kuznetsoff says:

    Dear Norman,
    Would you please show me where Valentina said that she will continue to support Putin? I am a husband – I failed to see that news. Maybe you saw something I somehow missed?

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Dear Alexey
      I’m sorry your English comprehension has become so poor since we last met. Valentina’s tweets have been consistently hostile to the elected Ukraine government and supportive of the Russian position, to the point of recycling Kremlin propaganda. I support her right to perform and her rights of free speech, within the legal limits of democratic society. Norman

      • Philip Amos says:

        I’ve already commented on this myself, though so far without a response, and Alexey is right. You yourself are doing exactly what I said others have done — reading into Lisitsa’s words something she never said and, I find, has not said since. What she has been intent upon doing, herself half-Ukrainian, is attacking the actions of the Ukrainian Government and its forces. This is not the same as supporting Putin’s position. For aught I know, she may do so, but she hasn’t SAID that she does and, as I wrote earlier, you do her no service by writing something that may now be very convenient fodder for those who oppose her position in toto. In academe, this is a fundamental venial sin: a student would be taken to task for it, an article that contained such methodology would fail its peer review. These sort of issues are complex and sensitive and call for utmost rigour.

      • Alexei Kuznetsoff says:

        Dear Norman,
        I did not mean to troll you or be sarcastic when I asked a simple question. In ocean of communications currently coming in I thought I missed something important. I do not think propaganda has any affect on me from one side or the other.
        Here is Ukrainian international publication.
        From now on UPA members have full veteran benefits.
        And here is a link to a wiki mainstream views on UPA and Holocaust. Just a note… Nothing personal…

        • norman lebrecht says:

          Dear Alexei
          Thank you for that assurance. I have not read widely on the Ukraine situation but I am aware of the complexities of post-Soviet societies with mixed populations. My concern with Val’s tweets is that she took Kremlin propaganda as fact and retweeted it with her own heavy spin. In doing so, she served no purpose of truth and beauty and I can understand why many were offended. That said, I support her right to perform where and whenever she is invited.

        • Vlad says:

          Dear Alexei, I can see how this seems outrageous.May be Rada should revoke that and also revoke any pensions and benefits of Red Army veterans, since Red Army servicemen committed many documented atrocities, in addition it was an armed force of regime that killed estimated 20 million of people. Why don’t you and your talented wife rally for that? It would be only consistent with the fight for historical justice.

        • Alexei Kuznetsoff says:

          Argh! Somehow the link I meant to post did not paste in. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust_in_Ukraine
          We all know there are Holocaus deniers, now we also have UPA deniers as well. If one lives long enough the history will be changed to the next generation’s liking I guess…

          • Vlad says:

            Alexei, please stop twisting. Where in that article UPA is mentioned??? Your view oh history through Soviet distortion lens has very little to do with the fact that your wife’s posts are offensive and hateful.

        • Alexei Kuznetsoff says:

          70% of Japanese people today do not know that Americans dropped atomic bombs on them. Another 10 years and… mission accomplished, as “great” American President G.W.Bush said…

    • Mircho says:

      Even if Ms Lisitsa supports “Putin”, there are millions of ordinary Russians who also support him and his policy. The role of a president of a state is not to please elites in a far away country and its indoctrinated public opinion, but his own people. So far, it appears from the independent poll’s results, that he has done his job brilliantly.

      • Slava says:

        Yes, millions Germans supported Hitler and his policies too. Putin is criminal and I’m sure he either would be assassinated by his own or end up at tribunal. Lisitsa is miserable tasteless joke of a human being As she clearly demonstrated by her tweets and mostly after scandal trying to portray her self as victim. any one inviting her in future would be regarded as fascist host.

  • Jennifer Cohagen says:

    @Milka’s comment above.

    You insinuate that Valentina cannot fill larger halls? I assure you she’s had many sold-out venues. She’s every right to “make hay of this”, and there’s quite a large mob with pitchforks to escort her. Downplaying the situation by saying Koerner is “forced” to allow her to play is not correct, as demonstrated by TSO.

    All your rhetoric about it “paying off”, and a “buck is a buck”, guess what? It was a free showing she had offered to the TSO. Regarding “free publicity”, Koerner earned every ounce of it. Speaking of which, I read TSO tried its darndest to not refund money they collected for Valentina’s showing, if you have any place you want to condemn for being cheesy you should start with TSO.

    Koerner stands up for free speech. They’re rewarded. Valentina gets to play, she’s rewarded. TSO has lost far more customers than they gained, they’ve been rewarded. Everyone has their rewards. Happy endings for all.

  • william osborne says:

    I hope that artists on both sides will continue to express their feeling freely and candidly. In civil wars, so much pain accrues that it creates an unbearable past. Through the expressions of artists, however crude, crass, hyperbolic, and troubled they might be, the suffering of the people is captured and placed in an external world where it is easier to address. These expressions help create a respite, a moment of awareness and compassion that can allow enemies to rationally view the absurdity of war. People leave the pain and hatred of the past and enter the current moment where they can better see what needs to be done to resolve the conflict. Forgiveness is the doorway to the present, and it is only in the present that peace can be found. Artists bring us to the present moment.

  • Anatomik says:

    This is not a democracy, it’s a shame. In Germany ’39 was a ban on the profession for the Jews, and oppositions.

    Not everyone can calmly watch as Ukrainian army bombing homes, killing civilians, children with the silence of the West.

    • Inna Thorn says:

      Nobody can read and tolerate yet another Putin troll, who thinks it is perfectly ok to invade another country, occupy its territories, send arms and troops, arm local criminals, send more criminals from Russia, shoot from residential areas, use civilians as their shields and put the blame on those defending their Homeland – Ukraine.

  • Philip Amos says:

    May I ask, Mr. Lebrecht, whether Lisitsa actually said, apart from that she intends to continue tweeting, “…supporting the Putin position”? This is not a small matter, for her previous tweets, by no means always totally clear, have required some interpretation, and if she did indeed say that, it would confirm what some have chosen to read into her words. If she did not, and this is your shorthand for her position, you do her no service.

  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    @Milka: “…I am sure she will make hay out of this…”

    She doesn’t have to, everybody else is making enough hay already (IMHO).

  • Anon says:

    1.) An honest assessment of her tweets does not allow the conclusion that she is supporting “the Putin position”.

    2.) What is that “Putin position” anyway? Do people who attack it, actually know what it is?

    3.) Even if she would support Putin’s policies, that would still be absolutely legal under our rights of free speech and general freedom in our western countries. No reason to reprimand anyone, unless they are clearly supporting positions that are in breach of basic human rights. Supporting the right of Russians in Ukraine for political representation and protection from state mandated violence is clearly a legitimate position.

  • Alexei Kuznetsoff says:

    I guess I am not the only one with poor English here… 🙂

  • V.Lind says:

    She has played Koerner Hall before — a solo recital a couple of years ago. Presumably everyone was happy.

  • B. O'Connor says:

    Thanks you, Philip Amos, for those comments.

    Some clarification:

    1) Ms Lisitsa did not “rent” Koerner Hall, as Milka suggests. The concert in question is part of an annual, year-long series presented by the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto; Koerner Hall is their house venue. I received notification of Ms Lisitsa’s upcoming performance there at least two months ago.

    2) Jennifer is incorrect about the TSO’s ticket refunds. Anyone with tickets to Lisitsa’s performances was offered a full refund upon request. Further, all ticket holders to both concerts were offered free tickets to another TSO concert this season.

    I have no idea how much the disgruntled sponsor who apparently threatened to pull his sponsorship had donated, but I suspect it pales in comparison to the amount of revenue lost from this debacle.

    Finally, Mr. Lebrecht and others might find this article from yesterday’s Toronto Star illuminating.


  • Milka says:

    Ms. Tkachuk slants the article to suit her political stance,nothing new here,
    What is carefully not addressed is ” russian invasion” which her like minded mother russia
    supporters dance around .Quite selective to say the least.
    If it be true that the Royal Conservatory invited the piano player as part of a series, it
    is indeed a sad day that the conservatory has to scrape the bottom of the barrel in
    coming up with such a wanting player . Doesn’t speak well for the conservatory as
    an institution of musical studies .

    • Mircho says:

      Quite to the contrary. The conservatory, as you put it, is an institution of musical studies, not an institution of censorship. Whether or not there is a “russian invasion” in Ukraine is not in the competency of any musical institution. However, it has an expertise to determine the quality of the performer. Hence, the invitation for Ms. Lisitsa.

  • B. O'Connor says:

    Milka, please don’t bring a knife to a gun fight, you’ll only end up embarrassing yourself. Had I known that you were simply trolling, I never would have bothered to correct you in the first place. The fact that you bring Ms Lisitsa’s musical abilities into question confirms this.

    I only recently discovered this site, and was hopeful that Slippedisc would be a welcome change from what usually passes as critical discussion about the art form on the internet. Mr. Lebrecht is normally spoken of in high regard here in Canada; however, his snotty reply to Ms Lisitsa’s husband, as well as the numerous vitriolic posts concerning Ms Lisitsa are disappointing.

    I hope this is not typical of the site.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      I am sorry if you were startled by the robustness of some of the comments. We welcome strong opinions and rebuttals. But we firmly exclude trolling, abuse and defamation: this is a safe site where musicians and music lovers exchange views.

  • VALfriends says:

    We do rather share the view that Val’s words are being misinterpreted. We have known Val & Al since around 2006 and can certainly vouch as to their ability to grasp a situation, take a considered view and express that view often in a way that is better constructed than by some English speakers we know 🙂 We haven’t been following all Val’s tweets re the Ukraine but have to say we have always found her most ingenuous. It is distressing to see people at each other’s throats over it though, & we fear quite often out of sheer misunderstanding.

  • MacroV says:

    First, as is not uncommon with Mr. Lebrecht’s posts, the headline is quite misleading, as it suggests that Koerner Hall booked Ms. Lisitsa after (and because of) the brouhaha of the past week, as opposed to some time ago, as is evidently the case.

    As for the complaints by Ms. Lisitsa’s husband and others that her views have been mischaracterized, there is an easy solution: Write an op-ed (surely one of the Toronto newspapers would run it) that can be linked to Twitter, where she thoughtfully and thoroughly lays out her viewpoint.

    It is perfectly reasonable for her to say that while she, too, was inspired by the demonstrations in Maidan and outraged by the kleptocratic Yanukovich, the current Poroshenko/Yatsenyuk government is not much of an improvement, that it continues to foster serious corruption, and that the many western-looking, democratically-inclined idealists of Maidan have again been betrayed. As someone who aspired to and now richly enjoys the benefits of western life, betrayal of that aspiration for the Maidan crowd is something with which Ms. Lisitsa can reasonably sympathize.

    If that’s a fair characterization of her position, she should say so. But from the tweets I have seen (a tiny fraction, admittedly), I see efforts to paint large swaths of people who disagree with her as neo-Nazis, Banderites, etc. And charges that the ragtag Ukrainian army is killing innocent civilians without acknowledgement that the Russians have grossly violated Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty in annexing Crimea and now intervening in eastern Ukraine.

    So…let’s have the long, detailed explanation of Ms. Lisitsa’s position, where she can articulate her thoughts – more than 140 characters at a time – on the messy and tragic situation in Ukraine, and see where that leads.

      • Stuart says:

        Thanks, just read it. Suddenly she has become wise if still essentially gullible and wrong.

        It’s not easy to get out of sticky mess! Better to watch where you step. Hope her online time defending herself against countless critics will not take from her practice time too much.

      • MacroV says:

        That was included in Mr. Lebrecht’s first post, and it’s really not helpful. Sure, she’s crying for her beloved country, but is throwing out the “Nazi” epithet which is a huge slur in a Ukraine where the population suffered greatly under Germany in the war, and making a lot of assertions that likely wouldn’t stand up to fact-checking. And completely ignores the Russian army that has no business being in Ukraine.

        I had something in mind that would actually be publishable in a respectable newspaper op-ed section; this doesn’t.

  • Stuart says:

    Perhaps this analysis of what she said will help.


  • Stv says:

    Can’t help it but to rephrase a quote once published by a Czech President describing his foreign minister, if memory serves: ” I hate Putin so much that I can’t listen Rachmaninov..”.
    Would this describe your feelings Mr. Lebrecht? Why would it be terribly wrong if she supported Russian President? Because you don’t? Or you know more about Ukraine than she does? As you said, this is a site for musicians and music lovers, not political advisers.

    • Stuart says:

      I dont think it is support of Putin that caused the TSO to cancel the concert – but what has been perceived as the offensive manner of her tweets. TSO clearly just did not want to be associated with her. This is not new – an opera company sacked a soprano after she posted offensive comments about gays. This is not an attack on free speech as Valentina has been claimed – nobody is trying to gag her and she is free to express her view – as TSO is free to choose who to put on the stage.

  • Sonia says:

    Alexei, never say anything on a topic that you are not familiar with,better learn history before, but not a comy / soviet history, but a real one. And do not talk about Holocaust, it is a very sensitive topic for many , perhaps not for you though, but my jewish grand parents , who were Holocaust survivers told me real stories about UPA , and I know as a fact that they were fighting germans and soviets, and UPA never colaborated with nazies, they were fighting for the freedom and independence of Ukraine and my jewish relatives were supporting UPA , so stop using the biggest tragedy of the jewish nation in your dirty manipulations.Plus this discussion is not about UPA, its about Mrs. Lisitsa supporting Putin , who started this bloody war in Eastern Ukraine

    • Stuart says:

      No it is not about support for Putin – it is about what has been perceived by TSO as offensive hyperbole posted on twitter and their resulting decision to cancel her appearance. It is actually to be commended as it must have cost quite a lot of money in refunded tickets.

  • Elena Gekker says:

    It seems that in the so called West one has to confirm her/his opinion to what the media tells you. There is certain degree of self-censorship.
    I left the Soviet Union 40 years ago and one can’t tell that my views are pro-Russian. Still watching Ukrainian government, their treatment of Russian population, their promotion of Nazi collaborators like Bandera makes be weary of them. I can’t understand why the West supports them.
    Now my opinion about freedom in the West is shaken even more. I feel that after what happened to LIsitsa people will be afraid even more.

    • Vlad says:

      Elena, you do not understand why the West supports a country that was attacked by Russia, in the middle of European continent?
      Also, could you please tell what “treatment of Russian population” you refer to? Being from Odessa, having my family and friends living there now, I am really puzzled by that statement (which is repeated often on Russian TV though).
      Also in which way freedom of Ms. Lisitsa and that of the ‘people that should be afraid’ is threatened?

    • Stuart says:

      And do you think that what happened to Nemtsov and Pussy Riot should make people afraid?

      A bit different from an pianist having her concert cancelled for making offensive remarks on twitter.

      If you want to see real oppression against freedom of speech – I suggest you go and stand with an anti putin banner in Red Square.

      • Stv says:

        “…what happened to Nemtsov and Pussy Riot…”
        I apologize for a “ping-pong” reply, but perhaps this is the whole point of the discussion: one-sided, biased presentation of the facts. Yes, Nemtsov was murdered. It is a tragedy, just don’t present him as an opposition leader. Nobody except US ambassador would have voted for him.
        But where is the mention of opposition journalists and politicians died in Ukraine in resent weeks/months? Can’t claim exact count, but five or six murders and very suspicious “suicides” received hundreds times less attention in the media. And dear “Pussies” haven’t posted any pranks about it either. What’s wrong with Lisitsa’s effort to bring attention to the true picture? She didn’t do it Shen Yun style, which is widely supported in the West.


  • Robert Hairgrove says:

    I don’t want to fan the flames anymore than they already have been. But what really bothers me about this whole business is this — I will say it and then shut up:

    We talk about freedom of speech. We talk about artistic freedom. Some people talk about the “right to perform” (what is that, anyway?) These are all excellent and important ideals. But nobody seems to care that an artist who cares about their art must also strive to uphold certain esthetic ideals and express themselves at a certain cultural level.

    Does a true artist use gutter talk? In public? It really reflects on a person’s art, IMHO. If I know that a certain pianist calls someone “dog [redacted]” on a public platform and trivializes the Holocaust by including gruesome pictures of concentration camps in a Facebook site or tweet to support their own highly doubtful point of view (please look at the link that STUART has provided: http://ukrainianpolicy.com/why-valentina-lisitsa-was-fired/ ), then I really don’t want to hear this person playing at all, regardless of the political content or direction thereof.

    When an artist plays, he or she reveals their soul. I know now what kind of soul to expect from Valentina Lisitsa when I read these tweets. And I don’t need to listen to that kind of playing. Ever.

    • Philip Amos says:

      Which is just fine, Robert. There are artists I choose not to listen to even on CD for my own reasons, although they are, e.g., the likes of Elly Ney and Karl Bohm. But I don’t see the point of your posting such a long comment about your own preference unless you are arguing that others should be deprived of attending a concert by a particular artist because you and some others object to her mode of expressing herself, but though, in VL’s case, I do wish she would moderate her language and choice of analogies. She is not entirely wrong, far from it, in what she tries to impart about the Ukrainian Government. And that position may be held without necessarily being pro-Putin. Even then, Gergiev and Netrebko are avowedly pro-Putin, so…. Your personal decisions are nobody’s business but your own. But in Calgary an audience will soon be attending a concert by the SO of that city with Lisitsa, people may boycott, the tickets will still sell, and this because the administration of the CSO, actually a better band than the TSO, is not susceptible to minor interest groups and not so willing to make an ass of itself.

    • Stv says:

      “…. I know now what kind of soul to expect from Valentina Lisitsa when I read these tweets. And I don’t need to listen to that kind of playing. Ever….”

      Sounds very reasonable. Then you start thinking where this approach can take us.
      I was unfortunate to meet a person who had his reservations about Tchaikovsky. Not straight enough for him. We can refuse to hear Elvis. Ever. Who needs a sweaty overweight drug addict? We might think twice before seeing anything from Van Gogh. Hearing aid is expensive these days and who is interested in his delusions and depressions after all? Musician must be nicely groomed! And politically correct.

      Ms. Lisitsa don’t possess any of the sins above. In fact her soul is inferior for some listeners because she’s been quite vocal about an orchestrated war in her homeland. Not on stage though, where she plays Chopin as if she had a beautiful soul. Must be just pretending, right?

  • Stuart says:

    quote from Goodyear (pianist scheduled to replace her)

    “Her attitude, and the mob-like behavior
    of her devotees, censored Rachmaninoff’s second concerto. It is no
    longer on this week’s program.
    Many people demanded that I respond
    to their Twitter tirades. Here is my response: I am an artist, not a
    politician; a lover of all people, not an ambassador for hatred; a human
    being with a name, not a pseudonym.”

  • Inna Thorn says:

    Now that Lisitsa was taking pictures with war criminals and terrorists who are banned from entering Canada, I am certain Lisitsa may get into sanction list herself for her xenophobia and support of terrorism.

  • Stan Squires says:

    I am from Vancouver and I wanted to say that it is never to late to do the right thing. Valentina Lisitsa was barred from playing at the TSO last year and the TSO was rightly condemned for this atrocity against Valentina Lisitsa.The new Canadian gov’t has also changed its attitude towards Russia. That is an improvement over the former gov’t.Hopefully Valentina will be successful this time around at the TSO