For Discussion: Ukrainian Pianist Dropped from Toronto Symphony for “Offensive” Tweets

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April 10, 2015; Newsweek

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) cancelled two performances of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 this week after it dropped Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa from those performances, citing “ongoing accusations of deeply offensive language by Ukrainian media outlets.” The evenings had been sold out.

“Valentina Lisitsa’s provocative comments have overshadowed past performances,” according to a statement from the symphony. “As one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world’s great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive.”

TSO President & CEO Jeff Melanson’s said his staff had asked Lisitsa to explain dozens of “inflammatory tweets,” but the pianist, who has more than 9,000 followers, has posted more than 13,000 tweets using the handle NedoUkraïnka, which means “sub-Ukrainian.” Here is one of the tweets in question:


New school year begins in Odessa with teachers forced to wear Ukrainian tribal dress, a truly European custom 🙂

— NedoUkraïnka (@ValLisitsa) August 28, 2014


Lisitsa responded in an interview, “The only honorable thing for me is to keep doing exactly what I’m doing.”

“If I would now be just tweeting kitten pictures and about the next concert, people would know that I still have duct tape over my mouth,” she said, referring to a poster she designed to protest against her dismissal. “People would not believe that I became mellow and nice; they would understand that I would be self-censoring, and that would be the worst thing.”

However, the pianist does say, “I was inexperienced on Twitter. I might put some things differently now perhaps.” But still, she says, the TSO took her comments out of context, mistranslated them, or edited them to misrepresent.

On the nights on which Lisitsa was scheduled to perform, the concert hall was only half full for a performance of Mahler, which was to have been the other half of the program. Outside, about a dozen protestors gathered. “She’s an artist. How can art live without freedom?” one protester reportedly asked.

We would love to know what readers think about this and we recommend that you may wish to read more about the uses of social media policies (here).—Ruth McCambridge


  • BOB

    Lisitsa claims her messages were taken out of context? Here’s one prime example of her lies. Lisitsa claimed that her tweeter name, “NedoYkrainka” is a reference to Ukrainian PM’s statement calling Eastern Ukrainians subhumans. Anyone who cares to check the original, true statement can do so here:

    The correct statement is here:

    Lisitsa completely twisted the PM”s message to suit her propaganda purposes. PM Yatseniuk was honouring the memory of soldiers who died defending their motherland. He called all those who train, sponsor and send terrorists to fight in Eastern Ukraine as subhuman.

    So, that’s just one example of how Lisitsa twists her messages and takes them out of context …That is truly a “valuable” form of expression indeed!

  • Mircho

    Don’t troll! The original translation on PM website and Ukrainian embassies read “subhumans”. It has been since change… a few times. One can tell immediately that you are one of these nut-case nationalists that would not stop spreading lies.

  • Baldur Dasche

    The other venue from which the artist claims to have been ‘blackballed’ is an east End Toronto Church. While the initial reports gave it out that the church found some conflict between their religuious beliefs and the ‘hatred’ shown on the artist’s tweets, the Pastor there is “trying to air the truth” in the matter that his Church Hall had no rental agreement with the artist and “did not know she was to appear.” According to John Suk his Church apparently cancelled nothing.

    It would be interesting to know if Pastor Suk has Ukrainian roots, as his name might indicate. Or if the artist fantasized her scheduled appearance and dropped a load of bother on an innocent divine.

  • BalderDasche

    How can you “twist the truth”? Isn’t that the essence of truth? It’s untwistable? Now lies, on the other hand, can be denied, twisted and reinterpreted.

    The office of Prime Minister of Ukraine is in the hands of a consumate liar.