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The Politics and Passion of Ukrainian Classical Pianist Valentina Lisitsa

By Thomas Swan t.swan@classicalite.com on Jan 12, 2016 08:12 PM EST

Classical pianist, Valentina Listisa, is Ukrainian by birth. She is blonde, extremely talented, probably considered very beautiful by many, and is pro-Vladimir Putin. Being Ukrainian and pro-Putin is somewhat akin to spouting the virtues of Karl Marx on the steps of the Indiana state capital. The pianist is very opinionated about the politics of her birthland, even though she no longer calls it home, and courts controversy wherever she goes because of her opinions. These opinions already have famously blown up in her face when the Toronto Orchestra CEO cancelled a performance she was due to give. Other cities also have questioned whether or not to do the same. Is it fair that Valentina's political beliefs might overshadow her massive talent as a pianist?

Valentina expresses her views quite a bit through Twitter. Some of them could most definitely be construed as offensive, but Valentina says differently. From The Globe and Mail online, Valentina had this to say, "You might find some of [my tweets] offensive, [but] satire and hyperbole are the best literary tools to combat the lies."

Write-ups about performers are a tricky thing. When you are familiar with the artist, for whatever reason, you lay your cordiality by the door as you walk in, because of that perceived familiarity. However, I am discovering Valentina Lisitsa for the first time and, based on the above interview, she seems really affable. Dare I say likable? So, why does she have people up in arms?

 

Her interest in politics led her to start tweeting about the Ukraine's political scene and the war Russian-backed separatists are waging against the government in Eastern Ukraine. The separatists and Putin claim it is to protect the Russian minority in the country that, ironically enough, had been placed there, as Russian Communists did with all former Soviet sattelite states, to more Russianize them. Essentially, they are fighting to stay in a place where they forcibly invaded.

 Did Toronto's orchestra violate Valentina Lisitsa's free speech?

 

Valentina thought so, and took to Facebook to explain her side and sway public opinion in her favor against the Toronto orchestra, and Valentina turned on the jets to win her cause. This, via Valentina's Facebook page, "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."

Was the ban necessary? Granted, her opinions are controversial and largely rhetoric, but are they anymore than that? Do they color or taint the way she plays Rachmaninoff? Can we really penalize Valentina Listisa and bar her from playing, when so many are getting behind a far greater bigot, whose rallies conjure up images of Nazism? Surely, if Donald Trump can be allowed to run for president, Valentina can play her piano. In the end, it is Trump who is a far greater danger to the world than Ms. Lisitsa's political opinons.

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TagsValentina Listisa Concert Pianist, War in the Ukraine. Concert Pianists Anti-Ukrainian Tweets, Valentina Listia Youtube