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Russian conductor performs in Palmyra ruins

The Putin-endorsing maestro will bring back music to the 2,000-year-old city, which was until recently occupied and partially destroyed by IS

By IQ on 05 May 2016

Roman Theatre, Palmyra, Guillaume Piolle

The Roman Theatre at Palmyra


image © Guillaume Piolle

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev will perform a concerto in the ruined city of Palmyra, in modern Syria, today.

Gergiev, a noted supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin, will be joined by St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre at the Roman Theatre this evening (15.00 GMT), reports the state-owned Rossiya 24 news channel.

Syrian government troops supported by Russian airstrikes recaptured the 2,000-year-old Unesco World Heritage Site from the Islamic State (IS) on 27 March. IS troops destroyed a number of monuments they considered idolatrous during their 10-month occupation, including two temples and the ancient Lion of Al-lāt statue, and also used the city as a backdrop for a number of its notorious execution videos.

“Moscow will be hoping that images of its classical musicians in Syria will reinforce the message that Russia is a force for good”

Steve Rosenberg, the BBC’s Moscow correspondent, writes that the concert shows that “Russia wants the world to see that it is making a positive contribution in Syria: bringing peace and stability to the country, and, in the case of Palmyra, saving a Unesco heritage site. Moscow will be hoping that images of its classical musicians in Syria will reinforce the message that Russia is a force for good.”

Gergiev, who is also principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic, was widely criticised in the west in March 2014 for signing an open letter supporting Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine and subsequent annexation of the Crimea. His concerts have also been disrupted by gay rights activists angered by the Putin government’s enacting of a law that bans the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors.

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