Shocking: Toronto Symphony bans pro-Putin soloist

Shocking: Toronto Symphony bans pro-Putin soloist


norman lebrecht

April 06, 2015

The pianist Valentina Lisitsa has been highly outspoken in her hatred of the Ukrainian government and her support for Russian intervention. She lives in the US and she likes to play up alleged Fascist and Nazi elements in the Ukraine government and its forces.

She now reports that , in face of protests from local Ukrainian ‘loyalists’, the Toronto Symphony has cancelled her concert and is paying her to stay away.

You may not agree with Val’s politics, but TSO’s action, now confirmed, seems censorious, cowardly and anti-art.

UPDATE: Why Toronto is totally wrong.

Read Val below and take the appropriate action:

let valentina2


Dear fans, DEAR FRIENDS!
I have a confession to make and a huge favor to ask all of you. I really REALLY need your help now.
But first, my confession.
Over the last year I have been leading a double life. There was me – a “celebrity” pianist hopping from a concert to a concert, all over the world; learning new pieces, meeting fans, recording, chirping about my happiness in upbeat interviews.
But there was another me: not a musician but a regular human being – a daughter, a mother, a wife. And this human being was watching helplessly how the country of my birth, of my childhood, of my first falling in love – this country was sliding ever faster into the abyss. Children die under bombs, old ladies die of starvation, people burned alive…
The worst thing that can happen to any country is fratricide war, people seeing each other, their neighbors as enemies to be eliminated. This is what has befallen my beautiful Ukraine. My heart was bleeding. You all saw on TV screens all over the world a magnificent revolution, the people of Ukraine raising in fury against their corrupt rulers, for a better life. I was so proud of my people! But the ruling class doesn’t let go easily. They managed to cunningly channel away the anger, to direct it to other, often imaginable, enemies – and worse, to turn people upon themselves. Year later, we have the same rich people remaining in power, misery and poverty everywhere, dozens of thousands killed, over a million of refugees.
So, I took to Twitter ( how many of you know I have a Twitter account? LOL) under a name “NedoUkraïnka” – a word roughly meaning “Sub-Ukrainian”, a stab at Ukrainian Prime Minister who called Russian-speaking Southern and Eastern Ukrainians “SUBHUMANS”! Yes, I kid you not. In an official written document. I am a subhuman, my husband, my mom….I mastered Ukrainian language perfectly, far better than a so-called “president” of Ukraine. But I don’t speak it to my family, I didn’t sing lullabies to my son in Ukrainian, when I sleep I never see the dreams in Ukrainian, when I will be dying my last words will NOT be in Ukrainian….
Sorry, I got carried away telling you those things… To get back to my story – I took to Twitter in order 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. I translated news stories from Ukrainian language websites, I translated eyewitness accounts of atrocities…. I became really good in unmasking fakes published by Western media in order to make one side of the civil war look whiter and softer than Easter bunny, and another – as sub-humans, not worthy of mercy, the “collateral damage.
To give you just one example: one of my feats was to confront French fashion magazine “Elle” who published a glowing cover story about women in Ukrainian army. After the research I have shown to the magazine in my Twitter posts that the “cover girl” they have chosen to show was in fact a horrible person, open Neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semite who boasted of murdering civilians for fun! The magazine issued a written public apology.
I was very proud! But with time my activities attracted a lot of vicious haters. I was a particularly important “target” because of being Ukrainian, thus – a traitor. I thought I knew hate – my playing on YouTube certainly “attracted” a fair share of hate mail. But I was mistaken. Death threats, wishes for my family to die, calling me “paid Kremlin wh*re”…the list goes on and on smile emoticon
My haters didn’t stop there. Trying, in their own words, to teach me a lesson, they have now attempted to silence me as a musician.
I am scheduled to play Rachmaninoff Concerto #2 with Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week. Back in December someone in the orchestra top management, likely after the pressure from a small but aggressive lobby claiming to represent Ukrainian community, has made a decision that I should not be allowed to play. I don’t even know who my accusers are, I am kept in the dark about it. I was accused of “inciting hatred” on Twitter. As the “proof” , ironically enough, they presented to the orchestra my tweets containing, of all things, Charlie Hebdo caricatures depicting lying media!!! We all know what those who can’t tolerate free speech did to Charlie Hebdo journalists.
Now, the orchestra based in one of the freest democratic countries is bending over to the same kind of people, helping them to assassinate me – not as a living person yet , but as a MUSICIAN for sure.
Yes, Toronto Symphony is going TO PAY ME NOT TO PLAY because I exercised the right to free speech.
Yes, they will 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.
And I thought things like this only happen in Turkey to Fazil Say?
Now, the plea.
Before you decide to help me – If you wish, please take time and read my tweets. You might find some of them offensive – perhaps. The satire and hyperbole are the best literature tools to combat the lies. Bear that in mind when reading.
Here is what I ask you to do for me, and in defense of freedom even if you disagree with me on politics (LOLl!)
I ask you to raise your voice and tell Toronto Symphony that music can’t be silenced.
Ask them to let me play.
If you want to write something – great!
Or just share a photo I made ( sorry, I made it on my phone, nothing fancy)
Ask your friends to join in.
If they do it once, they will do it again and again, until the musicians, artists are intimidated into voluntary censorship. Our future will be bleak if we allow this to happen.
Please stand with me.
Here are the links :

Twitter @TorontoSymphony


h/t: Joe Goetz, Christine Mori


  • Ks. Cristopher Robson says:

    This seems grossly unfair on the part of the TSO. Would they cancel certain well known Russian favourites of Pres. Putin – eg Gergiev, Netrebko – for the same reason? Reading Ms. Lisitsa’s post I am definitely inclined to sympathise with her. Surely better to let her play and let the people who don’t like the policy of engaging her have a protest outside. Freedom of speech has to work for all sides. What a mess-up!

    • Nataliya says:

      I’m absolutely supporting TCO decision to remove a pro- russian war supporting person from their performances. This also should be done to everyone with russian flags and posters coming out on our streets. These people must leave to Russia if they support Putin’s government deadly politics and their war in Ukraine.

    • Stefan Mochnacki says:

      These others are Russians, and not making the sort of outrageous statements Ms. Lisitsa appears to have posted. People can have their opinions, but that does not give them license to publish rabid, racist diatribes. I wish Ms. Lisitsa would disavow these postings, assert that somebody else posted them as a provocation.

    • Viktor , Toronto says:

      What are you talking about? This monkey mocks the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian and support pro-Russian terrorists,who killed nearly 300 passengers on the plane, including 80 children! This is the result of the official investigation. She should shut her mouth – there erupts one shit!

    • Viktor , Toronto says:

      What are you talking about? This monkey mocks the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian and support pro-Russian terrorists killed nearly 300 passengers on the plane, including 80 children! This is the result of the official investigation. She should shut her mouth – there erupts one shit!

  • May says:

    Dear Val, I’ve immensely enjoyed your recordings on youTube over the years. I was very distraught when you entered the fray with your pro-Putin comments, as it is not easy to separate the artist from their politics if you don’t agree with them. Please consider two things that non-Russians consider to be tantamount: the annexation of Crimea was a gross violation of international law, and had Putin not invaded the Ukraine, MH17 would not have been shot down. I’m sorry that you feel the world is not listening to your side of the argument, however please realize you have alienated a lot of your fans with your pro-Russian statements. Had we known all along that you are Russian, it would have made your statements more plausible. Take the money from Toronto and donate it to charity in your homeland. Toronto is not going to back down on this one.

    • Jules says:

      Precisely. And I’d like to hear from the TSO.

      PS. The use of “LOL” does not help your case, Val.

      • Desm says:

        Totally agree. She is whining after writing horrors not ”opinions” about a whole part of her own society. She copied and paste fale propaganda but criticize western medias. She is childish and deserve to be boycotted everywhere.

    • Bill Doerrfeld says:

      “the annexation of Crimea was a gross violation of international law”

      Um… Actually the Crimean people wanted this and voted for it. Maybe the Western, CIA backed overthrow of the democratically elected former Ukranian government is a gross violation of international law. But, that’s not the story you’ve been fed.

      Here’s an American visiting Crimea and busty some myths about what actually occurred.

      • MWnyc says:

        Viktor Yanukovych was not overthrown. He abandoned his office and fled the country because he was about to be arrested and prosecuted. (I forget whether the charge immediately at hand was corruption or ordering the shooting of unarmed protesters, but he could have been prosecuted for both.)

      • Julia says:

        You cannot exercise democracy at gunpoint of the invaders, who burn churches, kill the indigenous population of the peninsula and threaten anyone who comes to speak out. That’s exactly what happened in the Crimea. And Lisitsa is abusing the freedom of speech trying to justify her dirty language, agressiveness and unethical behavior. She hasn’t even had the decency to apologize, but instead WANTS TO USE HER FANS to force her way through the situation. It’s nothing but brazen impudence and disrepect for her audience.

        • Anon says:

          “who burn churches, kill the indigenous population of the peninsula and threaten anyone who comes to speak out. That’s exactly what happened in the Crimea.”

          Do you have ANY proof for these hyperbole allegations? Sounds like extremely primitive propaganda to me.
          All I know is that the majority of Crimeans welcomed the secession from Ukraine and reunification with Russia. Do these people have no right to decide about their own fate?

          • chris says:

            They had the right to choose Russia at Gun Point and after being told that if they don’t then the Fascists will kill them. The Russian Media / Propaganda machine is working well…

  • Eli says:

    Shocking! As of 1300 CDT the TSO still lists Ms. Lisitstra as the soloist on 04/08 and 09. Shocking?

  • Brian says:

    It will be interesting to see where public opinion on this falls. Aside from her band of dedicated groupies the majority in the West won’t agree with her views. But it sounds like the TSO is opening itself up for some real problems too by dropping her for what she said in her personal life.

  • YWL says:

    She exercised her right of free speech. TSO exercised their right of termination of contract. What’s the problem here?

    • Aida Sorescu says:

      In a democratic society I doubt TSO can legally breach a music performing contract because the musician has different views than the West regarding the war situation in her former country. It is called cancellation by reason of political discrimination and is proof of double standards when it comes to accepting freedom of expression. This censorship is senseless as she was to play an instrument, not to give a speech on her personal views. I was to attend this concert and happen to have my unique ideas on politics as well, but I wanted to hear her playing because of her musicianship.

      • Dimitri Visser says:

        Believe me, legally they can. They paid her, and by that they fullfilled their part of the contract.

      • William says:

        TSO isn’t breaking her contract, they are paying her entire fee and therefore fulfilling TSO’s contractual obligations. She openly expressed as herself, but also as her brand, and she is facing the consequences.

      • MWnyc says:

        Depends on the details of Lisitsa’s contract and whether the TSO simply terminated it or bought her out.

        • Olaugh Turchev says:

          More details about legal stuff in this link:

          Meanwhile, pianist Goodyear, her born in Toronto replacement, is coincidentally an alumni of the RCM in Toronto where the TSO CEO used to work and even more coincidentally is about to release a CD including Rach 2 and 3 on the Steinway label next week!!!

          Looks like a well coordinated effort, not a last minute moral outrage…

          • Olaugh Turchev says:

            From the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Facebook page:

            Dear Patrons:
            In light of this week’s events, the TSO has taken a decision to remove Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 from this week’s programme. The concert for Wednesday, April 8 and Thursday, April 9 will focus entirely on Mahler’s monumental Fifth Symphony. The concert begins at 8pm and will have no intermission.

            Did Goodyear realised it would look atrocious on his resume… I guess we’ll never know.

    • Anne says:

      “What’s the problem here?”

      One was a consequence of the other, that’s what.

      • Tom says:

        TSO did the right thing… people who support terroruSSia should not even be allowed to Canada. It could be the result of watching too much of the russian TV – this is what russian immigrants with pour English skills usually do.

        • Anon says:

          terroRussia? What should we call the USA then? USA has done more warfare, killing a multitude of civilians worldwide in the last decades than what Russia did, far worse, and you have the guts to call Russia “terroRussia”? Keep drinking the brainwashing detergent.
          The biggest Terrorist of the world is the USA, they only do their dirty business smarter than the Russkies, being more skilled and experienced in covert war fare, economical, financial, electronical, psychological warfare and terrorism as well.

          • T.kikibarda says:

            Fascist ideology of Ukranian goverment should be exposed here on this continent ,but American propaganda machine is silencing evry effort …
            If this happened in Rusian all western media will be writhing about it on the first pages of their newspapers!!!!,

  • Greg says:

    How theatrical – almost unbearable to read. American pathos and Russian crocodile tears. That being said: Hopeless decision by Toronto.

  • Milton Berle says:

    while I am not in favor of the current trend of suppressing free speech, hate speech is a fine line, and if the TSO feels she has crossed the line they are within their rights to buy out her contract.

    If Ms. Lisitsa wishes to play the role of Ely Ney, she needs to have the political maturity to accept the consequences. There is too much awareness of the political forces behind extremism and the sufferings of humanity in the last century to stand by and not take action. Bravo to the Toronto management.

    • Ben Philips says:

      Well said Milton. And it’s pretty hard to take Valentina seriously as a musician after she recorded two CDs of Phillip Glass’s monotonous piano music.

    • MacroV says:

      Ms. Lisitsa has every right to express her views. And she is right that the situation in Ukraine is not as black-and-white as often comes across in the media – in that there was historically a lot of corruption and malfeasance in Ukraine, and that didn’t end with Maidan, unfortunately. But as right as she is to criticize a lot that is happening there, she is crossing a very black and white line when she supports Putin and ignores: 1) Russia’s blatantly illegal takeover of Crimea, 2) Russia’s direct interference in eastern Ukraine, and 3) its at least indirect support of the shooting down of MH 17. There is western media lying about those things, however much they may be ignoring other happenings.

      As for the TSO, they have a contract with her to perform, and have honored the contract by still paying her fee. If Mr. Lebrecht is appalled by this, I hope he was similarly appalled when the Boston Symphony years ago dropped Vanessa Redgrave from a series of concerts when Israel supporters objected to her pro-Palestinian views.

      • MacroV says:

        I meant there is NO western media lying about those things. Wish commenters could edit their posts.

        • Alex says:

          So, after one year more than 90% of Crimean population still confirms their decision of joining Russia, which was based on the will of the overwhelming majority of people, you and many others keep calling it “annexation”? Really? Have you checked the definition of that word?

          About “direct interference”. In this day and age, you could see hundreds of videos of an event that lasts seconds, for example a meteorite that fell near Chelyabinsk. According to the Western MSM, Russian troops have been hording in Ukraine for about a year now, yet there is not a single photo or video of them. Or, if there a photo that a Senator uses in his speech slamming Russia, later appears that it is a photo from 2008. Does it bother you at all?

          Coincidentally, the German Wings plane’s black boxes were deciphered in two days. Why the Nederlands is taking so long to release the information from the MH 17, which they had in their possession since the early August? Perhaps, the truth is not going to be very convenient–it is so easy just to blame Russia for that.

          Do you really believe all you just said in your reply to Valentina? Have it dawn on most of the people here that she IS from the Eastern Ukraine and knows the first hand what is going on there. Yet, everyone is rushing to criticize her, because according to their information, she is wrong. So Orwellian.

          • MacroV says:

            Every word of it. There is plenty of intelligence showing Russian troops and material on Ukrainian territory.

            It defies any kind of logic that anyone but the pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane and in fact they bragged about it on the website (Facebook page?) before they realized it was a passenger jet and took it down.

            You cannot trust any election or poll done in Crimea at gunpoint. In no way was that a credible election or referendum.

          • Pianoman says:

            But you’d have to ignore that the Ukrainian army had BUK missiles in the territory as well and actually increased the number of operating systems in the days leading up to the crash – all of which makes little sense of course, since the rebels do not have any planes that the Ukrainian BUK’s could shoot down. After July 17th, there was a steady decrease in operational Ukrainian BUK systems in the area.
            You would also have to ignore that multiple eyewitnesses saw fighter jets in the sky as the plane went down. Even BBC reported on it, and then deleted the report. Ukraine claimed that they did not have any fighter jets that day. But you see no reason of being suspicious?

          • Delbert Grady says:

            “Have you checked the definition of that word?” Minor point, but I keep seeing this. “Annexation” is the only English word that fits the situation. It’s an annexation even if it was popular (e.g. the annexation of Texas by the US). Maybe Russian usage implies something different.

            Also, Lisitsa is from Kiev, not Eastern Ukraine.

  • S McC says:

    For anyone to be excluded on the grounds that they hold a political belief is absolutely ridiculous. I highly doubt had Val came out an condemned events in Ukraine, had condemned the alleged actions of Putin in Ukraine and had supported the commonly held view here in the west that the (good) people in ukraine have made a democratic choice to turn away from russia and join us (as we made them choose!); if she had put forward these views then she would still be performing.

    What you have here is a lady who holds a political view at odds with our geo-political aims and we are so ridiculously intolerant of any opinion that stands in the way of our post-soviet conquest that we are even willing to silence a musician. This is pathetic, puerile and for people to be bringing up events that have no factual attribution of blame (MH17) or events which were more democratic than the revolution we laud (Crimean accession), those people need to start calling for musicians from south of the border to be banned from TSO for being proud Americans, a nation that has cost millions of lives throughout the 20th century in the pursuit of imposing its’ own narrow interpretation of exceptional democracy upon the world.

    What happened to the space for different opinions in our liberal democratic west?

  • Wang Bang-Bang says:

    This is an unfortunate consequence of the lack of balanced reporting on Ukraine in the mainstream media, which are tightly politically controlled (on both sides) and relentlessly disseminate propaganda rather than facts.

  • BOB says:

    Valentina supports Putin & Russian green men invading Ukraine. I would love to see her speak in Russia, the truth about Putin, where is no freedom of speech. Freedom of speech ends when it promotes violence, death and hatred. The TSO made the moral and right decision.

    • Peter says:

      Armchair comment of a westerner who a) has no clue about what is really going on in Ukraine and b) has personally done nothing for freedom in the world.
      I find most of the comments here completely bigot.
      The situation in Ukraine is far from being explained by black-and-white stereotypes and particularly can not be explained without a dubious shit stirring role of the US of A as one major contributing factor.

      • Mikey says:

        Armchair comment of a westerner who a) has no clue about what is really going on in Ukraine and b) has personally done nothing for freedom in the world.
        I find your comments here completely bigot(ted).
        The situation in Ukraine is far from being explained by black-and-white stereotypes and particularly can not be explained without a dubious shit stirring role of Russia as the major contributing factor.

        See how easy it is to reverse that kind of “armchair” comment on someone? It applies to you in the exact same way.

        • Anon says:

          Except that it doesn’t apply in reverse, because that doesn’t make any sense. The USA wanted to overthrow the government in Kiev and so they did. USA wants to expand their empire (under NATO disguise) closer to Russia’s border. Don’t be obtuse. The facts are all on the table, people who can think independently can connect the dots.

  • Mary says:

    Well done TSO! We support your decision 100%!

  • esfir ross says:

    I support V.Lisitsa desperation of shamful Ukrainian goverment and she shouldn’t be label as pro-Putin. There ‘s pressure from Ukrainian ISIS and they can become dangerous.

    • Frank Fileccia says:

      There is no Ukrainian ISIS and the Ukraine government has nothing to do with the TSO decision. But of course, you wouldn’t know that seeing as your a Putler troll sitting in Moscow

    • Michael says:

      I have no idea where you get the Ukrainian ISIS thing from, but this is quite inflammatory and does not represent what has taken place. When Ukrainians fight for their freedom from a dictatorial regime, this is not the same as terrorists killing people for their religious beliefs.

      • Anon says:

        Ukrainians did not fight for freedom from a dictatorial regime. That’s not what happened, except on some US “news” channels propaganda.

  • Frank Fileccia says:

    Stick to your guns TSO. Cancel anyone who supports terrorism, whether it’s TerroruSSia or ISIS

  • Sergei says:

    HvK should had been deny conduct in the West, since he affiliate twice to the Nazi Party. And Leonid Kogan to play , since he was a KGB agent.?

    • MacroV says:

      Karajan had to go through a de-Nazification process, however faulty it might have been, and for several years after the war didn’t work.

      A lot of Soviet musicians in that era were probably working (willingly or not) with the KGB. That was at least something that could be assumed about everyone, and orchestras could choose whether or not to engage them. At least at that time you could assume they were good people in a bad system. But nobody is holding a gun to Ms. Lisitsa’s head to make the statements she is making.

    • Nick says:

      Follow that line of reasoning and the US would never have made it to the moon by 1969 and been far slower in developing its stockpile of chemical and biological weapons after World War 2. Werner von Braun was the Nazi rocket scientist who developed the V2 bomb. In his work he had visited and used slave labour from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Like well over 1,000 former Nazi scientists and doctors, he and members of his team were quickly “de-Nazified” and secretly brought over to work for the USA in a programme named Operation Paperclip. For his huge contribution to the NASA space programme, the US awarded him the National Medal of Science.

      Ms Lisitsa spends a lot of her article talking about “hate”. She adds “satire and hyperbole are the best literature tools to combat the lies.” With that I agree. Yet there is little of either in her long rant. She also seems to forget that freedom of speech may be a right enshrined in the US constitution, but as Eleanor Roosevelt said, ““Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.”

      Ms Lisitsa exercises what she sees as her political responsibilities – voluminously. But she is no Barenboim when it comes to political thought and debate! She oversteps boundaries, branches into hate-speak and fails to exercise her responsibility – as a professional musician. As a result there are consequences. She will know the classical music business. She will know that orchestras depend on a loyal core of donors, subscribers and other ticket buyers. Step over the line and an orchestra which has engaged her is bound to start questioning its own right to follow through with an engagement or not. I do not know the TSO contract. Those of many performing arts companies, though, often have very general clauses to the effect that the artist will – to cut a long clause short – not defame or bring the organisation into disrepute..

      Outspoken, sometimes hate-filled, political views and performing in public as a soloist do not often make good bed-fellows.

  • Tetiana Kaliuk says:

    Supporting Putin means supporting terrorism. Means supporting people who thinks that “Ukraine failed in establishing itself as an independent nation” as I heard from my Russian acquaintances. Supporting Putin means supporting aggression and violation of recognized international treaties. Bravo and thank you TSO!

  • Babaloo says:

    This woman is speaking in favour of GENOCIDE. What is the matter with you people? This monster supports terrorism. Thousands of Ukrainians have already been murdered in the past year. Putin’s heroes are Stalin and Hitler, who together slaughtered nearly 30 million—24 million of them Ukrainians. This woman should be banned everywhere, as should anyone supporting Russian terrorism.

  • Bohdan says:

    I completely support the Toronto Symphony. Putin is today’s Hitler and responsible for the murder of 6,000+ Ukrainians. Putin’s cheerleaders should not be welcomed in any western democratic nation, because they support a government of tyranny, aggression and oppression.

    • Anon says:

      Even if you speak nonsense, let’s go with your “logic” for a moment.
      The Bush Jr. administration killed about 100,000 civilians in Iraq in an illegal war.
      Now what?
      Worldwide boycott of all US artists who took part in elections?

  • Dr Solomon says:

    Ms Lisitsa is free in the West to make whatever critical comments she wants; would she be allowed to be so openly critical of Putin if she resided in Russia? I think not. We should support the TSO.

    • Olaugh Turchev says:

      Andrey Zvyagintsev was free to direct his film “Leviathan” in Russia.

    • Alex says:

      Are you still living in the 1970s?
      You would be surprised, but quite a few actors and musicians in Russia don’t agree with the government and so far haven’t been fired. On the contrary, some of them even get state awards, for example, Lia Akhedzhakova.
      Also, unlike the so called “free world”, Russia has several newspapers and radio and TV channels that are not supporting the government view. Do you know any TV station or radio channel in Canada or the US that has an opposite opinion regarding the situation in Ukraine?

  • Adrian Bryttan says:

    Lisitsa can climb down from the cross about being censored for being an “anti-war” crusader. She ain’t no Pete Seeger when she opines in herTweets: “Odessa was, is and will be Soviet”, “How immoral of Kiev to torment victim’s families [at MH17 crash site]” and “Kasparov needs to be reminded his adorable Western democracies enthusiastically deported his people to gas chambers” and “Russia sent 1000 men into Ukraine?.. why not send 100 times more and finish it in 3 days?” Yep, real class from Lisitsa – gutter class.

    Aside from Val’s crocodile tears about Ukraine, her “country that she loves” (just one look at her daily Tweets show the absurdity of that statement), the action by TSO is not “anti-art” or “censorious” when you consider the racist primitivism of her Tweets featuring photographs of African tribal villagers couple with Ukrainian school teachers. They may be seen at:

    Lisitsa’s accompanying gleeful comments smearing African culture and denigrating Africans as unworthy of “Europe” are despicable. This is the action of an intolerant “artist” who uses her high position to smear whole nations and cultures. It should not be tolerated from global performers. In Ariadne auf Naxos, Strauss writes “Musik ist eine heilige Kunst” – well, not when Val pollutes it with her small-minded mean spiritedness. TSO did the right thing.

  • Torontonian says:

    Thank you TSO! No room for hatred and terror support in Toronto or Canada.

  • Torontonian says:

    Thank you TSO! No room for hatred or terrorism support in Toronto or Canada.

  • Dimitri Visser says:

    I agree with banning her. This is not about free speech but about someone supporting Russia, a country guilty of warcrimes and terrorism. I also don’t really understand her situation… She doesn’t only lie about Ukraine, but also blames NATO and the USA for many bad things. If she doesn’t like the USA, than why did she move there. Please let the US government deport her to Russia, it would be best for all of us.

    • Anon says:

      “supporting Russia, a country guilty of warcrimes and terrorism.”

      Let’s say that’s true. Now what about the US? I would guess about 100 times more warcrimes in the last decades, hundreds of thousands of murdered civilians worldwide. Including terrorism, electronic warfare, Orwellian surveillance of he whole world etc.

      Where does all this double standard come from, this bigotry?

  • Vovka Ashkenazy says:

    I do not think musicians should make any public statements concerning politics, but that does not give the TSO the moral right to do what it has done regarding Valentina Lisitsa. Whether or not she be right or wrong in her particular analysis of the Ukrainian situation – and it is very difficult to understand what is going on there, and which interests are being served by all the violence – should not have any bearing on her concert engagement. Those who think she is wrong are free to argue their points, period.

  • Retrocat says:

    I support this fair TSO decision! Way to go! Pro-Putin pigs should be ready to hold responsibility for their criminal hate speech

  • Michael Redmond says:

    “Alleged” Fascist and Nazi elements in the Ukraine government and its forces? “Alleged”? These “elements” are extensively documented.

  • Torontonian says:

    Thank you TSO!
    No room for hatred in Toronto.

  • milka says:

    It was a mistake to book her in the first place ,one should be aware of the Ukrainian
    factions in Toronto . There are the pro russian ( former communists ) and the anti russian
    anti communist Ukrainians who have been at war with each other since before Hitler .
    The Toronto symphony orchestra had this problem decades back when some orchestra
    musicians were denied entry into the US being labeled communists or having
    communist sympathy . The city was a hot bed of marches both pro and anti and street
    fights on a weekly basis .That the piano player seemingly supports the murderous
    intervention in the Ukraine by the russians should have been a signal not to enter
    negotiations in hiring her as she will now try to twist the events to her advantage
    conveniently forgetting what misery there is in the Ukraine is an internal matter
    not a russian one .Once hired she should not be cancelled because some faction
    of the public find her rightly despicable .Let her play and let protesters do what they
    will to let her know she is not welcome to Toronto. By dropping her the orchestra plays
    into her hands .

  • hyprocritesgalore says:

    They have replaced her with Stewart Goodyear. The site is updated:

    What does the political Lisa Batiashvili think of all of this? Oh, wait, if you’re against Putin it’s fine to be political.

  • Maria says:

    I wholeheartedly support the decision of the TSO to let this person go. While the majority of the international community is condemning the Russian occupation and annexation of a significant part of Ukraine, this person spreads lies about the situation in Ukraine, and tries to play with the feelings of those who are not in the know by manipulating their sense of pity and compassion. I’m afraid she also tries to mislead everybody here twisting the “story” behind the TSO decision. I do not know how far she went with her pro-Russian stand, but the workplace is definitely not the place for propaganda, and TSO is right to take any appropriate measures to provide for a safe and hatred-free work environment. Hate speech is not allowed in this country and anyone who tries to spread hate and propaganda lies should be made accountable for their actions. Well done, TSO!

  • Josie-Ann Mirek says:

    Tragically, she is not exaggerating at all when she highlights the fact that Ukraine has a really serious Nazi problem:

  • Dave says:

    I love how Valentina is “pro-Putin” yet her censors are not pro-Nazi (which the new Ukrainian government has been documented to be).

  • Alex says:

    There is a very clear line between music and speech. Music has no words. We are not asking about political affiliation of a surgent who is about to operate on us, somehow we assume he is not going to perform worse if he disagrees with our views. TSO got scared of possible negative outslash from certain groups and acted by unlawfully discriminating against Valentina on the grounds of her political views. There is at least a dozen of world famous musicians who either support or don’t condemn Putin, but they are too big to mess with. Valentina is not pro-putin, she is pro-human, and that’s a difference ignorant minds won’t see.

  • Patrick says:

    TSO is totally right, it is time for russian propagandists to be banned. By the way, I can’t understand why she’s not living in russian paradise ???? The freat place of freedom and culture ???

  • Desm says:

    Totally agree. She is whining after writing horrors not ”opinions” about a whole part of her own society. She copied and paste fale propaganda but criticize western medias. She is childish and deserve to be boycotted everywhere.

  • Anna says:

    I don’t think supporting terrorists is the same as having political views. And Ms. Lisitsa openly supports pro-Russian terrorists. Any other questions? Respect, TSO!

  • Sergiy says:

    I SUPPORT the TSO decision. Lisitsa says TSO dumpred her ostensibly “because she exercised the right to free speech”. Rubbish! She outspkenly supports the country which annexed 3 regions in Ukraine and killed 6,000 Ukrainians, among them 60 children! She is paid to and supported by the blood-thursty Puitin, and her “confessions” are nothing else than neo-Communist propaganda which labels Ukrainians as fascists, while presenting the Russians as “freedom fighters”. Putin skillfully uses her artistry the same way the Soviets used their ubiquitous Red Army choirs and folk dance ensembles to spread the “human” image of the USSR. And I know know first-hand what life in the USSR really was. Do not listen to that liar! TSO is right, Listitsa should not perform. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. She wants freedom of lies! The word “lisitsa” means “fox” in Russian, and she justifies her last name very aptly with her foxy behavior.

  • Dmitriy says:

    During the war both sides lie to its own people. However, there is one side or another and you can’t be in the middle anymore. There is country, who is attacking and country,who is defending. I think it is clear who was plotting the aggression for many years against Ukraine. Good job TSO! Hope she will approach Ukrainian community very soon just to get the stuff clear

  • Inna says:

    Great job TSO! Thank you again and again on behalf of everyone who wants to stop Putin’s aggression against Ukraine!

  • Irena Adams says:

    Thank you Toronto Orchestra for honest and rightful desision. Anyone who believes and declares openly support for Purins Russian aggression against Ukraine should not be on the stage. There are many great talented musician who are also have decency and respect for human life. Miss Lisitsa can perform in Russia and should remain there.

  • says:

    Shame on TSO for suppressing free speech. Shame on Harper government for supporting Ukraine neo-Nazis!

  • Eduardo says:

    Oh Valentina, I adore your music but have mixed feelings about your opinion. Although I am not up to date in regards to the Ukranian conflict I wish you would speak against the Russian atrocities as much as you talk about the Ukrainian government’s crimes. Nobody wins in a war. May a lasting peace and harmony descend upon your land.

  • KP says:

    True, Canada is a democracy and freedom of expression is a constitutional right for all. However, constitutional rights are not unlimited. It would be naïve to think that they were. Certain forms of expression are more valuable than others and will therefore invite stronger support and protection… Are messages inciting hate, intolerance and racism worthy of strong societal endorsement and
    protection?! I sure hope not.

    While I understand the outcry coming from disappointed concert goers, their
    disappointment also seems rather selfish and over-blown to me. (Perhaps go and read Lisitsa’s offending tweets, as I am sure TSO has done, before you start decrying its cancellation of her engagement). Some things – such as society free from intolerance and one country’s/people’s right to self-determination – are fundamentally more important to take a stand on, even if it means a missed chance at a classical music concert one night! TSO took that stand for the bigger ideal and I applaud them for it. Cancelling these concerts was not in their interest, because it meant lost profit and some undoubtedly disappointed customers, but I applaud them for looking to protect more important ideals.

    Valentina Lisitsa is not a politician…true, but she chose a public forum to incite and spread Ukrainophobia, belittling Ukrainians’ fight for freedom and endorsing – no openly cheering – for the occupation and invasion of Ukraine by a foreign aggressor, which was responsible for massive civilian casualties and a horrendous humanitarian crisis, which continues to this day. She wants to use her stature as an artist to promote this “valuable message”. By letting her perform, TSO would be tacitly and indirectly supporting her message. I am glad that TSO found that this is not the type of expression that deserves ardent protection and not one that they, as a musical and cultural organization, want to be associated with.

    Lisitsa is obviously free to spread her “message”, but as a public figure, she should also be prepared to take the consequences. It is natural that a well-respected cultural institution such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra should want to distance itself from an individual who hides behind the right of freedom of expression to spread bigotry. She may be an artist, but her message of intolerance overshadows her musicianship. I have added respect for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for cancelling Lisitsa’s concerts.

  • Roman Chykevych says:

    When a performer sends out thousands of tweets supporting a terrorist group and their Russian backers, she openly associates herself with those who committed atrocities and war crimes. Valentin’s, whatever propaganda “truths” you believe are of no interest to the public since they represent hate mongering, support for criminal acts, violation of international law and the murder of civilians and soldiers defending their country. Your grovelling online and LOL silliness only highlights your lack of wisdom and maturity. Free advice, apologize for the long stream of nonsense you have posted online, ask for forgiveness from those you have harmed, and hope you can rehabilitate your tarnished brand. To label the utter nonsense you have posted online as “freedom of speech” is an insult to all Ukrainians and free people worldwide. Your posts are what has created the mess you are in. In classsic Putanesque style, when called out for lies, distortion and propaganda, the famous “but it’s free speech” always jumps out with rage and venom. Kafka would be proud of your behaviour. Free people simply won’t stand for what you have done. Words once spoken can never be taken away,…you will remember this a long time from now.

  • Clayton says:

    The situation in Ukraine is one of History’s lingering tragedies. The consequence is a nation clearly divided, as each real election has indicated, between the Northwestern part of the country and the Southeastern. The humane solution is to allow for an amicable divorce and a radical decentralization of the remains. Some parts would likely want a close ties, or even unity with Russia, even though it is under the rule of Putin and Company. Some parts, particularly around Lvov might want very close ties, or even unity with Poland. The Crimea is clearly Russian and having it fall into the hands of the current war mongers at NATO would be a general threat to world peace. Reviving the Cold War should be avoided. The extreme hatefulness expressed in this controversy deeply troubles me. Ukraine should be demilitarized with all heavy weapons removed everywhere. Then open and fair elections should be held and let the ballot box take the place of weapons.

    As for the behavior of the TSO, I consider there unspecified condemnation of Valentina to be reprehensible. If they are to fire this great talent, whose name on their advertisements was responsible for all those high priced ticket sales, they should at least be clear about it and offer a full refund to all those fans of hers that are offended by their decision. Attacking artists at the level of their livelihoods is not in keeping with my values. It is a low blow. I will not ever purchase any products from the TSO again, until they apologize.

    Finally, I hope those condemning Valentina take the time to look on this young Ukrainian girl with the Nazi t-shirt on and the other one giving the Fascist salute. We all know what that means and where it leads to. I know we can do better for this impoverished people than lend support to this kind of behavior.

  • LaraK says:

    What?????? is it Canada????? what about freedom? i cannot believe….

  • MWnyc says:

    Whether one agrees with the TSO’s decision or not, there’s one factor here that many Slipped Disc readers may not be aware of.

    The Ukrainian community in Canada is quite old, quite large, and quite influential – far more so (in terms of percentage of population) than in the US or UK.

    In deferring to the sensitivities of Ukrainians, the TSO is paying attention to conditions in its particular market.

    It might be comparable to, say, the Boston Symphony in the 1980s engaging a soloist who, they discover later following an outcry by the Irish community, is an outspoken Ulster Unionist. We might think it reprehensible for the BSO to buy out that soloist’s contract, but as a practical matter we can’t be too surprised.

    • Paul Lanfear says:

      That is a very good point. I guess it depends on which is more important for a public institution: displaying a commitment to impartiality or placating a vociferous and powerful lobby. But, as with BDS, people are entitled to make their protests without demanding institutional self-censorshhip. Noam Chomsky has said that if you don’t believe in freedom of expression for the views you despise then you don’t believe in it at all. Gabriela Montero has the right to air her political views both on and off the concert platform. Valentina Lisitsa should have the same right, as should anyone who wishes to challenge or pour scorn on either of them. Unlike most things in this world, it’s as simple as that.

      • MacroV says:

        Valentina Lisitsa has every right to express her political opinion. And she faces no legal sanction for doing so. Ironically, she can do that in America, her home of choice, but not in the Russia whose leader she is apparently supporting.

        What she does not have is an entitlement not to expect commercial repercussions for her public expressions. It could well be that orchestras and other concert presenters won’t want to associate with her as a result of her remarks. And that is their right.

  • chris says:

    Ban Her!! Another Putin / Kremlin propaganda tool. This bull about the Ukrainian government being a Facist- Neo Nazi organisation is rubbish. The Kremlin Propaganda machine has always pushed this line and people are believing it now. If you look at war, the aggressor gains the ground and the Russian supported “Separatists” are the ones that have mostly been gaining the territory. Mariupol will be the next target. If people want to support the Russian Government and behave like a spokesperson for Putin, even though the Russian government supports clandestine wars in Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Ukraine… etc, then they should be open to criticism. Musicians give up their right to be left alone if they make accusations of Nazism and Fascism as well as blind support of a Dictator that is Putin. Her right to freedom of speech means that other people will use their freedom of speech to DISAGREE… People admire Putin because he is a “Strong leader” … but so was HITLER, STALIN, MAO, MUSILLINI… And we all know what they did without their people knowing. In Russia you get banned for ANYTHING negative about Putin / Russia, for talking about being gay and for being “..Unpatriotic!”. Shame on Valentina Lisitsa

  • QUESTION says:

    Thus it turns out that the trial of Julius Streicher and William Brooke Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) was undemocratic anti-art action of censorship?
    Why anti-Semites are fired (from universities for example) immediately, but must endure Ukrainophobes and give them to speak?

  • Anon says:

    All the hatred, the common people being played and manipulated into hating each other, so sad in the 21st century. So sad…

  • Sergei says:

    When politics enter the stage, art run away terrified.

  • Johnny Canuck says:

    Canada under Harper now has two powerful lobbies, Israel and Ukraine. The zealots of both are extremely dangerous and both have Stephen Harper by the short and curlies. He supported the US regime change operation assisted by fascist forces which installed the Ukrainian puppets, pirates and thieves that M Lisitsa protests. Good for her. She is right to do so, no matter what the banderite mush-heads think. Shame on Canada and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for knuckling under to thugs from the ultranationalist lobby UCC. If you want to know how crazy things are here check this out:

  • Free Speech Defender says:

    I exercised my right of free speech already today. Contacted the TSO and contacted Stewart Goodyear, the opportunist who coincidentally is releasing new recordings this month of his performances of Rachmaninoff. Living in Canada today it is very easy to remain completely uninformed/disinformed on foreign affairs; but I invest the time and effort, and not only on the internet, to acquaint myself with documented facts never ever reported by mainstream news outlets in Toronto and Ottawa. For example, did you know that the Ukrainian government has been using photographs from Desert Storm, taken over a decade ago, to try to pretend they have satellite pictures of Russian tanks? Remarkably there are real researchers and real reporters who have the courage to live ‘underground’ today, and they must do so because of the new tyranny of the ‘infowar’. Valentina explains that she was first contacted by the TSO on this issue in December. Finally, she decided to be a whistleblower for all other musicians whose careers may now be at risk. Some people have consciences. Other people just have goosestep agendas.

  • Mike Freeman says:

    How does Crimea and eastern Ukraine voting overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia differ from Quebec wanting to secede from Canada, or Scotland from the UK, or Catalonia from Spain, or Venice from Italy, etc? Eastern Ukraine is predominantly Russian, and they don’t want any part of the fascist government in Kiev. The US seceded from Great Britain by signing the Declaration of Independence, which states that secession is a fundamental right of mankind when governments become oppressive. Putin is no angel, but the Crimea was not forcibly taken from Ukraine by Russia.

    • MacroV says:

      Really? Crimea vs. Quebec? Russian troops (without insignias) occupied Crimea (they didn’t have to travel far since many were based at leased bases at Sevastapol, etc.) and expelled Ukrainian troops at the point of a gun, killing a few in the process. They then held a referendum on very short notice where there was no credible international observation, and plenty of opportunity for voter suppression and intimidation (did the Tatars, no fans of the Russians, really get to express their will free of any concern about voting against annexation?). And just how much free and open public debate was there on the question, as there was in Quebec and Scotland? Exactly which foreign forces were occupying Quebec when they voted on independence, or in Scotland when they voted? Your analogies are so ridiculous that I really should even have wasted my time to point them out.

      • Mike Freeman says:

        You provide nothing but unsubstantiated accusations. On the other hand, we have the intercepted phone conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine plotting to overthrow the democratically elected government of Ukraine and install a puppet government. Today, life is peaceful in the Crimea.

        • Jeff says:

          Corrected reply:
          Dear Mike Freeman, The article you linked to:, does not depict a very free society in Crimea at all. Anyone even wearing Ukrainian colors is arrested. I quote from the article that you referenced, “Three demonstrators were arrested – apparently for wearing Ukrainian colors – tried, and sentenced to a few hours’ community service.” Wow, that sounds like native Ukrainians have NO freedom anymore! And that is your article that YOU referenced as being a good sign that peace has returned to Crimea. It sounds like it is really bad living in Crimea under Russian rule if you are a native Ukrainian. That article clearly states that Ukrainians are being persecuted for being Ukrainian. I’m not saying that what Ukrainian leaders may have done to ethnic Russians was appropriate either. But what Putin is doing to Ukranian’s in the Crimea is outlandish and morally wrong, and that is according to the article that you referenced. Now, getting back to the TSO. The TSO is a private organization and they can cancel any performer for whatever reason they want to. If I were head of the TSO and unknowingly scheduled a Nazi supporter who is in favor of suppressing Jews and taking the rights of Jews (star of David) away and taking rights of Gay people away (pink triangle) I would probably ask that performer not to perform, since I do not support the suppression of one people over another. – See more at:

    • Alis Moralis says:

      I only wish you to live your entire life with brothers in spirit of those who took over Crimea. I simply wish you never escape their friendship, love and attention. No matter what you said or will be saying, I just wish you to be in circle of such wonderful people. They call themselves “polite people”. Just be with them. No argument with you, You are right. Just be with them. Let your life encounter them all the time!

  • Delbert Grady says:

    “but the workplace is definitely not the place for propaganda,”

    These were Twitter comments. They had nothing to do with her workplace (the concert hall).

  • Mikey says:

    Speaking musically, The TSO did well to forego her performance anyway.
    I paid big dollars to hear her play the Prokoviev 2nd piano concerto a few years ago, and she quite honestly faked her way through half of it. This is a work I know intimately – having performed it myself – and I could hear every single “cluster” she made when she couldn’t be bothered to play the actual notes written on the page.

    • Volodya says:

      Sure, Mikey, I’m sure your Prokofiev concerto is just amazing! Send us a CD after you save up enough money to record yourself. You couldn’t touch Lisitza if you wanted to.

  • Sergei says:

    Good riddance! Thank you, TSO. This lady should know better than engaging in neo-fascist Russian propaganda while enjoying Western liberties. She should remember that these values and human rights do not come free: the world has paid too large a price for them, fighting against the likes of Putin. She is free to go play in Russia and try be as free and open as she is here. Good luck with that.

  • Liand says:

    What a disgrace TSO! I don’t care about politics, but care about music. TSO, stay away from politics. And I’m tires of a bunch of ukranian and russians blaming each other, they all equally guilty. I’m disappointed in Toronto Symphony.

  • Mike Freeman says:

    You provide nothing but unsubstantiated accusations. On the other hand, read this BBC article about the peace and quiet that exists in the Crimea today.

    Also, we know from Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s intercepted phone call to the US Ambassador to Ukraine that the US overthrew the democratically elected government of Ukraine and installed a puppet government.

  • Tetyana says:

    Well done TSO! Thank you very much! Sounds like Valentina is deeply confused person. I feel sorry for her. Anyone who considers themselves Ukrainian would not say what she said. And I am happy you would not speak Ukrainian to your son, Ukraine does not need Ukrainians like Valentina.

  • vc says:

    I support TSO. It’s fine to tell truth, not lies.

  • iffconsulting says:

    There is picture of her doing the Hitler salute in face of the Red-Square…it’s not just that she have some opinion, she is a russian nazi who promote violence and genocide.

  • Vicki Karpiak says:

    I absolutely agree with the TSO decision to not keep Valentina in their employ. This
    decision was based on good reason. She was hired for being a good pianist but
    her political views are typical of those Russian travelling artists and hockey players, like
    Ovechkin, that are pro-Putin. Her political opinions are of no consequence to anyone
    valuing a Canadian democracy. Kudos to TSO for this strong decision!

    • Delbert Grady says:

      I agree! Everyone who has political views different from yours should be banned. This will strengthen Canadian democracy.

      • chris says:

        The thing with Democracy is that you are free to say what you want but if it is hate filled propaganda, lies and people are offended by it then there are consequences. If you lived in Russia and were pro Ukraine then your days would be numbered and they would be harassed. Note: Putin has banned NGOs that try and help the Russian People, Concerts and other events, Musicians (Madonna to name one), companies and businesses and even took the political immunity away from one of Russia’s Duma members for being the only one to vote against the annexation of Crimea. I support TSO!!

  • Nicholas T. says:

    Chauvinistic RuSSian diatribe, based of centuries of RuSSians occupying and imprisoning their ‘brother’ and other nations does not reflect free speech or democratic views. I support this strong TSO decision and not allowing Valenina the ‘stage’ to promote her hateful views!

  • Alis Moralis says:

    In case of Lisitsa the phrase “freedom of speech” must be corrected a bit: “freedom of srach”. The last word is a “shiiit flow” in Russian. She is absolutely sick person. I mean it. It is a pure psychiatrist case. Imagine an established pianist 43 y.o., spending day and night in dirty bottom rate community groups, relentlessly searching for somebody with swastika on his/her biceps and simultaneously speaking Ukrainian. Each such case then proclaimed as a nation level event and each such thug claimed to be a mainstream in Ukrainian politics. A frequency of tweeting (and also a time around the clock) provokes a serious suspicion that her account is simply managed by one(or several) of her “supporters” with permission to post “anything that harms Ukraine, USA or Europe”.
    It is simply a MAD flow of dirt, relentless, unweighted, one-sided and purpose driven.
    One can only wonder what a psychological reason behind that. I wonder, may be she is just a fool person? Playing Rachmaninoff, claiming to be “his Queen” and disregard the fact that Rachmaninoff barely escaped alive a similar to Putin’s regime….This lady is seriously ill. Not only ban her, but find her some friend whom she trusts to suggest her some therapy – we are not animals, we must help such individuals, not only hate back…