The charity which supported the ballet and the opera of Saint-Petersburg closes its doors | Russia
A British charity set up to support one of Russia’s oldest theaters has closed. The Anglo-Russian Opera and Ballet Trust, founded in 1992, has raised millions for Russian arts organizations and boasted the Prince of Wales as a patron.
The charity was established by conductor Valery Gergiev, a prominent friend of Vladimir Putin, with the primary aim of supporting the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg – one of Russia’s best-known cultural institutions – and to promote his work in the UK.
He raised funds for Mariinsky artists, including Xander Parish, a ballet star from East Yorkshire who joined the Mariinsky in 2010 and later became one of its principal dancers. Now, weeks away from its 30-year milestone in April, the trust has been dissolved. References to it have been removed from the list of Prince Charles’ affiliations on official royal websites, and the charity’s website now bears the message: “The Mariinsky Theater Trust [its working name] closed “.
The charity – whose trustees include former BP vice-chairman for Russia Peter Charow, Labor MP Nick Brown and Elizabeth Smith, the life peer and widow of the former Labor leader – has not did not release a statement explaining the shutdown, but the move came days after Russia invaded Ukraine.
A day earlier, Gergiev, the director of the Mariinsky and one of Russia’s biggest classical music stars, was let go by La Scala opera house in Milan after failing to denounce the invasion. He has since resigned as honorary president of the Edinburgh International Festival and was dismissed by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
The 68-year-old composer has been described as “fiercely loyal” to Putin, whom he would meet five or six times a year, and has expressed support for Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Putin, who has called Gergiev of “one of the outstanding musicians of our time”, has injected around $700 million into a new opera and ballet, the Mariinsky II, which opened in 2013.
According to its website, the Anglo-Russian Opera and Ballet Trust was established by Gergiev and combined “practical assistance for the work of the Mariinsky Theater in Russia with active promotion of its most innovative programming in the UK”.
Prince Charles became its patron in 1999 and was later photographed alongside Gergiev in 2001. Musicians from the Mariinsky performed at his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales said it had not yet been asked to remove the trust from its register, but last week the charity’s number was disconnected and the emails went unanswered. Administrators have been contacted for comment. A spokesperson for the Prince of Wales declined to comment, but confirmed the trust had closed. This is the latest example of the severing of ties between the UK and Russian cultural institutions after the invasion of Ukraine. Opera and ballet performances have been canceled across the UK, including a planned residency by the Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow at the Royal Opera House in London.
In Saint Petersburg, the Mariinsky show continues, with performances by Swan Lake and operas by Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Rossini among those scheduled this month. But last week Parish, the star of the ballet company and British principal dancer, announced her departure. The 35-year-old, who received an OBE in 2017 for his services to dance and UK-Russia relations, said in a social media post on Monday that due to the “terrible crisis”, he had decided to leave Russia, “at least until peace comes”.
He added that he was “so grateful to the Mariinsky”, which had given him “a career in classical ballet that I could only have dreamed of”, and paid tribute to the “wonderful ordinary Russian people, the majority of whom treated me with such kindness.
“I pray for peace to come and for the wounds to be healed by the grace of God. My heart goes out to the Ukrainian people.