Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel, a fierce critic of President Nicolas Maduro, said on Monday that the government-backed Venezuela National Youth Orchestra's tour of the United States has been canceled, calling the move heartbreaking.
Dudamel, 36, one of Venezuela's best-known celebrities, did not give a reason, but the cancellation follows escalating criticism by the conductor of government tactics in quelling protests.
"Heart-breaking cancellation of our 4-city NYOV US tour. My dream to play with these wonderful young musicians cannot come true this time," Dudamel tweeted.
"We will continue to play and to fight for a better Venezuela and a better world," he added.
Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported over the weekend that the order to cancel came from the office of the Venezuelan presidency. There was no official confirmation of that report.
Dudamel is the artistic director of the youth orchestra, whose 180 members had been due to play four dates in the United States in September, including the Hollywood Bowl. The fiery young conductor is also the artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Dudamel has spoken out strongly in recent months in support of anti-government protests that have rocked Venezuela for four months, leaving more than 120 people dead, including an 18-year-old musician from the youth orchestra.
In an op-ed in the New York Times in July, he said Venezuelans were "desperate for the recognition of their equal and inalienable rights and to have their basic needs met."