TORONTO, April 8, 2015 PEN Canada deeply regrets the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s decision to cancel the April 8–9 appearances of Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa due to a controversy over her political views on the conflict in the Ukraine.
“Ms. Lisitsa’s politics have nothing whatsoever to do with the TSO or her music,” said Philip Slayton, President of PEN. “It is a grave error of judgment, deeply contrary to freedom of expression, to cancel Ms. Lisitsa’s performances because her views may offend some.” Slayton called on the TSO to apologize to Lisitsa and reschedule her performances.
According to media reports, Ms. Lisitsa’s online statements have outraged members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community, and her tweets about the current Ukrainian government have included comparisons with Nazi Germany. Ms. Lisitsa has said that the TSO offered to pay her entire fee for the cancelled shows but pressured her not to disclose the reason for their decision. “If they do it once, they will do it again and again, until the musicians, artists are intimidated into voluntary censorship,” she wrote.
PEN Canada is a nonpartisan organization of writers that works with others to defend freedom of expression as a basic human right at home and abroad. EN Canada promotes literature, fights censorship, helps free persecuted writers from prison, and assists writers living in exile in Canada. PEN Canada is the Canadian centre of PEN International, a community of writers that operates on five continents and in over 100 countries.