Austria’s Salzburg Festival “is being overshadowed by the appearance of a conductor whose orchestra and choir are funded by a bank controlled by the Russian government,” writes Kate Connolly in Friday’s (7/22) Guardian (U.K.). “Cultural commentators have described [the] festival, which is also receiving sponsorship money from a foundation with close ties to the Kremlin, of being in the grip of Vladimir Putin’s influence…. The main focus of the row is on Teodor Currentzis, a Greek-Russian conductor, who on Tuesday is due to open the Salzburg festival with a performance by his ensemble, the St. Petersburg-based musicAeterna. The orchestra is funded by VTB Bank … sometimes referred to as Putin’s ‘private bank,’ and … under western sanctions…. Markus Hinterhäuser, the head of the Salzburg Festspiele, has staunchly defended his decision not to cancel the sell-out performance…. ‘Currentzis has never in the slightest taken sides with Putin,’ … Hinterhäuser said…. Separately, the festival has severed links for the time being with [Russian soprano] Anna Netrebko, … and conductor Valery Gergiev, over their close links to Putin.… Currentzis has yet to respond to the scathing criticism…. Austria’s government [says] it is working on new guidelines to govern sponsorship of cultural events.”