Finnish conductor received threats over controversial BBC performance

Dalia Stasevska has received a flood of online abuse over the BBC's decision to perform orchestral versions of two patriotic songs at the end of its classical music Proms series.

File picture of Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska / Credit: Jarmo Katila, Harrison Parrott

Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska says she and her family have received abuse and even threats, after a newspaper article implied she played some role in the BBC’s decision to include only orchestral versions of two patriotic songs in a performance this week.

Stasevska, who studied in Tampere and at Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, is due to conduct the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Last Night of the Proms classical music series when the songs ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ are traditionally played. Enthusiastic audiences typically wave small British flags and sing along.

The lyrics to ‘Rule, Britannia’ in particular are problematic, alluding to British colonial superiority over other countries, set against the backdrop of Britain’s 19th century empire-building and exploitation.

Through a statement released by her management company on Thursday evening, Stasevska says she is “so honoured to be part of this year’s BBC Proms and its iconic Last Night.”

“However, in recent days there has been a good deal of inaccurate speculation about my role in determining the format of this year’s Last Night of the Proms. This false speculation has led to abuse and threats towards me and my family which is why I am speaking out.”

Stasevska says she has played no part in deciding the traditional elements of the programme, and has been “wrongly portrayed as a person who tried to influence political debates – this is not true” she states. She is currently the Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and will be the Chief Conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra for the 2021-2022 season.

Online abuse from politicians and the public

The newspaper story which came out last weekend didn’t directly quote Stasevska, but strongly implied that she wanted to cut ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ completely from the orchestra’s Last Night of the Proms programme because of her views on the Black Lives Matter campaign.

One of the loudest political voices for Britain’s departure from the European Union Nigel Farage took to social media to write “so the BBC may drop Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory from The Proms because the Finnish conductor is too woke. Why not drop her instead?”

Criticism of Stasevska, who has now locked her social media accounts, even came from an unlikely source on Thursday as Bury Football Club, which plays in EFL League Two issued a statement criticising the BBC over their decision to have only orchestral versions of the two songs.

“Again it seems the moral compass of the few control the many. ITS (sic) WRONG.”

A sample of some of the abuse directed at Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska on social media / Credit: Twitter

Other abuse on social media was more direct and menacing.

“You cow. If you don’t want to include rule Britannia in the proms – piss off and let somebody else do it!” wrote Twitter user Kathy Tyrrell.

“Stay Home Love. We don’t actually want you or your lot destroying our culture. Why are you even coming? Does the BBC have to transport you over at our expense to insult us?” writes Mark Derrick Ritchings.

“I guess we found this bitch’s Twitter. Have at it people!” writes ‘TheNewNumber6’

“Who the hell are you a foreigner to try and dictate to us that our customs are wrong how would like you British people to come to your country and tell you your customers (sic) should be abolished sick and tired of people with big noses try to dictate to the majority in this country” writes Matt.

“You and the BBC are a disgrace, leave our proms alone and keep your insane woke identity politics to yourself, in Finland preferably” writes Chris.

“Do you have any idea how much you are now hated for your desire to drop Rule Britannia from the Last Night of the Proms? Some of us are asking why the BBC is unable to find a British conductor. People who hate us, our culture and our history are not welcome here” writes ‘DeplorableBristolian’.