Muti conducts half-banned Russian bass

Muti conducts half-banned Russian bass


norman lebrecht

August 16, 2022

Ildar Abdrazakov has a peculiar status in these strange times.

He lives in Russia and is due to perform with Valery Gergiev in St. Petersburg and Vladivostok. His Ildar Abdrazakov Foundation continues to list its partnerships with Gazprombank and VTB, both of which are banned under western sanctions against the Putin regime.

But Covent Garden had him singing last months in Verdi’s Attila with very few protests and he has now appeared in Salzburg under the baton of Riccardo Muti who reportedly insisted on having him for a scene from Boito’s Mefistofele.

The Vienna State Opera, on the other hand,has blacklisted him.

Go figure.


  • hbv says:

    Hm? I don’t believe Vienna blacklisted him, why do you think so?
    The classical music community will never decide to make any effective steps when it comes to russian musicians, even putinists like ildar. For a number of reasons – but this is not the place to elaborate.
    The management of opera theaters – even if it wanted to – can do practically nothing, they are not independent, they depend on funding.
    Russians have spent many years building a network of influences now it is perfectly clear.
    The extreme right is prospering (of course, not the russians created it, but they have been pumping money into it for years) and – of course – still working to maintain Russian influence.
    And audiences, especially opera audiences, are made up of old people, voters of the extreme right (and fanboys and fangirls who just don’t care, they just want their idol).
    American institutions are privately funded, so they have more freedom of choice and as russian influence is weaker there they can get rid of the putinists.
    But Europeans, who to this day can not forgive the Americans for the landing in Normandy and the Marshall plan, will do just the opposite, to show their independence, n’est-ce pas, and wail in chorus not only about “vokism” or “cancel culture” but about greatness of russian culture – and the “russian soul”, let’s not forget the famous russian soul!

    • poyu says:

      “American institutions are privately funded, so they have more freedom of choice” what a nonsense and you don‘t even notice that totally contradicts your “network of influence” theory.
      American voters, donors and ticket buyers are much more “extreme right” than European. Not sure which world you are living in, not that old I assume.

  • Just saying says:

    Music triumphs over politics. End of story, goodbye, the end.

    • hbv says:

      No dear, russian infiltration that is doing well because the extreme right in Europe is doing well. Mr. Ildar A. is just a singer like many (he doesn’t stand out in any special way) and Muti is a conductor of the old generation, a step from the grave. The absence of one or the other will not harm the music in the least.
      It would be interesting to see where the money goes.
      PS. are you paid or just doing your useful idiot shtick?

      • Just saying says:

        I’m not paid, and I’m not Russian. But I am against Russophobia, which is what you’re demonstrating, and to be honest, I find it racist. If Muti is a step from the grave as you say, perhaps you could join him.

      • Sanity says:

        So Ildar Abdrazakov does not “stand out” in any special way? Are you deaf or just delusional??? Also, since when is he a “putinist”? lldar has never acted in any way or did anything that could allow anyone to call him so.

  • Peter Schünemann says:

    Ildar Abdrazakov is for many years one of Riccardo Muti’s favourite singers. No surprise that he has been invited to sing under his baton. Why should he not be invited to Salzburg Festival, in which with Elena Stikhina (Aida) and Roman Burdenko (Michele) two more members of the Mariinsky Theatre participate?

  • kaa says:

    another explanation is that there are still rational people in the music industry

  • AW says:

    The Vienna State Opera has blacklisted him? Is there a source for that?

  • Jarred says:

    Good on VSO !

  • Sol L Siegel says:

    I wish I didn’t know this. Their Chicago concert performance of Shostakovich’s Michelangelo Suite was one of my great concert memories of recent years, only reinforced by the subsequent release on CD.

  • Lothario Hunter says:

    Trying to trace Muti’s divine moral compass is like pursuing an errant light through impenetrable woods.

    First things first. A picture always says a thousand words:

    Words, gazes of love, passion, respect, power between real men. Strong, powerful men who submit countries, journalists, women, and orchestras in equal measure. Absorb the image and its deeper meanings.

    Then contemplate the depth of friendship and philosophical intimacy of two great minds:

    Muti always measured his relationship with other conductors against his relationship with Valery, and found them wanting by comparison. Whom did he allow to conduct his beloved Cherubini, his own creation? Not Thielemann. With whom did he have brotherly passionate dinners in Ravenna? Not Luisi. Which twin Directors were programmed to both appear in Ravello? Not Muti and Chailly. Special gifts, special moments, for special friends. For brothers.

    Love is love… Can’t control it, can’t put a box around it. To which country did Muti dedicate his farewell season in Chicago? Italy? the United States who fed him for decades? Oh no. To the Mother. And the Mother had already given special gifts to her beloved son:

    Russia and The Russian Academy of Arts gave this great honor to Muti. The honor was awarded by the Russian Ambassador to Austria Dmitry Lyubinsky. Since 1997 to the present day, the RAA has been headed by Zurab Tsereteli, who in March 2014 reportedly signed a letter in support of the position of President Putin on Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine.

    Not to leave aside the most important prize, awarded by Him:

    The Order of Friendship that Muti received from Putin himself. Muti and the CSO have been exceedingly proud of this rare honor, and rightly so. They have listed the honor on the Maestro’s printed biography, on the program booklets, for probably a good decade, right between his British Knighthood and the Knighthood of the Grand Cross First Class of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, the highest papal recognition. When Muti made his epic anti-Putin speech on the Chicago stage (we all remember where we were that magic evening), the mention of the award conferred by Putin was right there, winking out of the printed page, that very night.

    Did Putin feel betrayed by Muti’s speech?

    Remember, you can only betray those you love. He betrayed to be loyal, he betrayed to love.

    And making music with a banned Russian singer … is like imagining when reality isn’t good enough. It’s like bringing love back home.

  • Realist says:

    Shouldn’t the only question be — as it was with Gergiev, Netrebko, Matsuev, et al. — whether he has actively spoken out in support of Putin and even in support of annexation or invasion of Ukraine? Being Russian and performing with Russians are not disqualifiers.

  • Tamino says:

    It must be very hard to be a Russian artist with an international career these days, living in Russia, also having family there.
    You are caught between a rock and a hard place.
    Anyone ho hasn’t clearly rallied around Putin’s flag has my empathy there.

    • Tamino says:

      all the people who pressed dislike here: I would like to know about the personal real risks you took in life, standing up against tyranny…

  • J. Darton says:

    And what about La Scala and maestro Chailly? They have chosen Abdrazakov as Boris Godunov for the opening night December 7th 2022.
    It’s really a shame for a town like Milan and a nation like Italy.

  • Pierre says:

    The irony is that Ildar is not ethnically Russian, but Bashkir, a people from the Urals originally adherents of Islam like the Tatars. Bashkorostan is a semi-autonomous republic that is part of the Russian Federation. I don’t know what this means about Ildar’s personal adherence to Putin, but as the Russian leader’s goal seems to be “Russifying” the country, it might lead one to wonder…Both Abdrazakov’s name and looks make him quite obviously NOT Slavic Russian.

    • MD says:

      This obviously flew miles over the head of most of the intransigent commenters from the US. Starting from the word Urals

  • A.Voblin says:

    I am grateful to Mr. Lebrecht for publishing this article.
    Here is the link to the Ildar Abdrazakov foundation website:
    Gazprombank and VTB are indeed listed as its sponsors, as well as the Russian Ministry of Culture and the infamous “Russia-24” TV channel. A curious thing about this web page is that it can be found via a Russian search engine Yandex, but not via Google, Bing or DuckDuckGo; from the technical point of view this is a simple thing to do, and is clearly intentional.
    While Mr. Abdrazakov has not made any explicit statements in support of the Kremlin regime, he props it up it by playing an active role in the cultural life of Russia. He has a title of the “Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation”, granted to him by Putin’s decree in March of 2021, and is enjoying a lucrative career in Russia, including his close collaboration with Valery Gergiev.
    Clearly, Mr. Abdrazakov likes his bread buttered on both sides; well he would, wouldn’t he?