“Stop hating Russians” was the message from the Russian Embassy after an orchestra in Zacatecas excluded an overture by composer Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky last Thursday.
The Zacatecas Concert Band traditionally closes its Holy Thursday concert with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, accompanied by the firing of cannons and the ringing of church bells. But the band’s director, Salvador García y Ortega, decided the work would be dropped in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
García said the concert stood for peace and that playing the famous composition would be inappropriate. “The 1812 Overture is a war anthem of the Russians … we cannot play [it] now that they are the conquerors of the world. Everyone can see that they are massacring the Ukrainians,” he said.
“In many countries the overture was banned. The director of the Chicago Orchestra has just been fired for playing the overture. It would be like celebrating what’s happening” in Ukraine, García added.
The Russian Embassy responded on Twitter on Monday morning accusing García of xenophobia. “Concerning news: the director of the Concert Band of the state of Zacatecas, Mr. Salvador García y Ortega, decided to exclude the piece by Tchaikovsky … Such a decision helps feed a campaign that seeks to dehumanize women, children, the elderly, athletes, musicians, artists, absolutely everyone, based on a single criterion: being Russian. Undoubtedly, it is another regrettable example of Russophobia that apparently is gaining more and more ground on Mexican soil,” the post read.
The hashtag #DejaDeOdiaralosRusos (Stop hating Russians) was attached to the post.
The overture’s omission proved controversial within Mexico. Cultural commentator Víctor Ramos Colliere said it was a divisive decision. “The Concert Band of the state of Zacatecas fell into the terrible error of an international policy of dividing, isolating and vetoing … we must understand that Tchaikovsky’s work is no longer just from Russia, it belongs to the whole of humanity. In dark times of humanity the only thing … which dissipates borders and becomes a universal language is art. The contributions that a country has given to humanity cannot be vetoed due to phobias,” he said.
Ramos added that Ukraine and Russia should be dealt an even hand. “If the intention was a concert for peace, the ideal thing would be to interpret Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, and … a work representing Ukraine, giving the message that ideological differences can be left for a moment through the universality of art,” he said.
With reports from El Universal