The director of Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev, is also put in charge of the Bolshoi

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian government on Friday named Valery Gergiev, the renowned director of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, to also lead Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.

Gergiev is replacing Vladimir Urin at the Bolshoi. Urin announced Thursday that he was stepping down after a decade, but didn’t explain the reason behind his move.

Some Russian media said the departure of 76-year-old Urin was related to health issues. Others speculated it was linked to a letter calling for an end to Moscow’s military action in Ukraine that he and some other prominent cultural figures signed after the Kremlin sent troops across the border in February 2022.

Several other theater directors who signed the letter have lost their jobs since then.

Russian President Vladimir Putin first suggested in March 2022 the idea of putting the countries’ two most prominent theaters, the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky, under single leadership.

Gergiev, 70, a world-famous conductor who has been the director of Mariinsky Theatre for 35 years, has been a strong supporter of Putin and his policies.

A week after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine, he lost the job of conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and some other European theaters also cut ties with him over his failure to denounce the Kremlin’s action

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