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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Metropolitan Opera Invites Supporters of Putin to Perform In New York City

Posted by on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 1:33 PM

What could possibly go wrong?

Because gay men and the opera, the opera and gay men, right? Gay men are the opera's most ardent fans and most vocal audience members. So... it seems just a little tone deaf for the Metropolitan Opera to open its season with an opera—an opera written by a gay man—that will be conducted by a vocal supporter of Vladamir Putin and that will star an equally vocal supporter of Vladamir Putin. NYT:

The long-planned new production of “Eugene Onegin,” which will open the Met season on Sept. 23, is to be conducted by Valery Gergiev, the artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and one of the foremost interpreters of the Russian repertory, and to star Anna Netrebko, the popular Russian diva, who will be opening the Met’s season for the third year in a row. Both were vocal supporters of the 2012 campaign of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who in June signed the law banning “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships.”

An online petition, referring to what the organizer calls “Putin’s recent laws against homosexual people and those who support them” and to Tchaikovsky’s suffering because of his homosexuality, is calling on the Met to dedicate its Russian-theme opening night to the support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. “I’m not asking them to be against anybody,” said Andrew Rudin, the composer who started the petition. “I’m asking them to be for somebody.”

Right on, Bartlett Sher:

[The petition has] attracted the signature of Bartlett Sher, the director of several critically acclaimed recent productions for the Met, including Offenbach’s “Contes d’Hoffmann” and Donizetti’s “Elisir d’Amore,” both of which starred Ms. Netrebko. Mr. Sher said in an interview that he did not see the petition as anti-Met but rather as a chance to take a stand against Mr. Putin and the recent law. “I saw it as a chance for everyone who loves opera, and all of us who work in it, to stand up to a pig and a dictator, against a terrible position and a terrible man,” he said.

Some context: St. Petersburg is where Russia's anti-LGBT pogrom got started—it's "where laws banning 'propaganda' in support of the 'gay lifestyle,' including public signs and gay pride festivals, first took root." Gay pride parades are banned in St. Petersburg and LGBT people are attacked openly on the streets in St. Petersburg. Look at what happened to a gay man held up a rainbow banner in St. Petersburg that simply read, "This is propagating tolerance."

Valery Gergiev lives and works in St. Petersburg. He may not give a flying fuck about LGBT people in his home city and country, he may not give a flying fuck about the gay people in the audience at the Met, but the motherfucker is coming to New York City—along with Ms. Netrebko—and gay people in New York City give a fuck about what is happening on in Russia and St. Petersburg. So it seems to me that the Met has two options here: dedicate its season opener to LGBT people in Russia, which would put Gergiev and Netrebko in an awkward position, or refuse to take a stand in support of persecuted LGBT people in Russia and risk an much more awkward demonstration on opening night.

Go sign the petition.


Comments (28) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
TomJohnsonJr 1
Done deal! The closest I've been to attending the Met was reading Robert Merrill's autobiography, but I felt good signing anyway.
Posted by TomJohnsonJr on August 20, 2013 at 1:37 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 2
Oh man, but now I want to watch Eugene Onegin. Is there some local group of gays performing it by any chance? Preferably this evening.
Posted by MacCrocodile on August 20, 2013 at 1:52 PM · Report this
geoff teardrop 3
The Met's statement reads: “But since our mission is artistic, it is not appropriate for our performances to be used by us for political purposes, no matter how noble or right the cause.”

One would think they ought to know that ALL art is political, whether it is the artist's intent or not. They should just know better. PARTICULARLY considering the irony of the situation they've put themselves in
Posted by geoff teardrop on August 20, 2013 at 1:56 PM · Report this
rob! 4
Very déjà vu-y for anyone who remembers the lead-up to the end of apartheid in South Africa and all the squeals of companies (and their international partners) being disinvested, uh, in.

"Gelb" in German means "yellow." We'll see.
Posted by rob! on August 20, 2013 at 1:58 PM · Report this
this guy I know in Spokane 5
aaaaaaaaand done.
Posted by this guy I know in Spokane on August 20, 2013 at 2:11 PM · Report this
Done as well. I hate opera but I really really hate Putin, his pals, his pogrom and his apologists hiding behind the "Don't mix _____ with politics. Be it sport or art or what-the-fuck-ever.
Posted by kwodell on August 20, 2013 at 2:25 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 9
"Invites"? Gergiev has been an associate conductor at the Met for at least a decade, and Netrebko has starred in something every season for years. They both work all over the world. Their association with the Met is long. You make it sound like they went out of their way to find them.
Posted by Matt from Denver on August 20, 2013 at 3:04 PM · Report this
I'm with @9. Gergiev is a wonderful conductor and Netrebko is a wonderful singer. The Met has a long association with both. I'm sure they didn't even realize that this would be an issue. Admittedly, it is a little tone-deaf, but it isn't malicious on their part. Can we just let this one go?
Posted by bi, athiest, and loving it on August 20, 2013 at 3:24 PM · Report this
@9, 10m nope. This will help keep the media spotlight on the issue. Sorry.
Posted by EricaP on August 20, 2013 at 3:49 PM · Report this
While what Putin and friends are doing is horrific, at least we now have the internet, which they didn't have in Germany. It is much harder to get away with genocide today than it was in the 1930s and 40s.

I have no doubt that Putin would be arresting and killing LGBT people if he could find a way to do it without starting another world war.

Thank God for the internet and people who care enough to make noise.
Posted by SeattleKim on August 20, 2013 at 4:23 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 14
@9-10- Yes, of course. We'll let it go when young men aren't being mocked, tortured, abused and killed on the streets of Russian cities and on the internet, when everyday LGBT Russians don't fear for their lives daily, and when Russia decides *finally* to join the rest of the civilized world. Russians have been barbarians as long as Russia has existed, so admittedly it's a long shot, but someone's got to take a stand.
Americans suffered world-wide censure during the Bush II years, and somewhat deservedly. Russians can 'suffer' because of their oppressive government as well, regardless of their 'artistic merit'.
Posted by OutInBumF on August 20, 2013 at 4:33 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 16
@ 11 and 14, @ 10 is the one asking to let this go. I signed the petition. Kindly refrain from addressing such remarks to me.
Posted by Matt from Denver on August 20, 2013 at 5:09 PM · Report this
In case y'all have unregistered comment turned off, go read aficionada@12, for the decisive response to the "art is apolitical." In any case, the call here is not "boycott Gergiev and Netrebko".
Posted by Eric from Boulder on August 20, 2013 at 5:12 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 18
The production starts in a little over a month. Don't you guys think it's a little late to change anything?
Posted by keshmeshi on August 20, 2013 at 5:33 PM · Report this
@18: No one is asking the Met to drop these two. They're asking the Met to dedicate the performance to LGBT people in Russia. How hard is that?
Posted by Dan Savage on August 20, 2013 at 6:12 PM · Report this
The Beatles 20
Maybe they misread it and they aren't supporters of Putin, but of Pushkin.
Posted by The Beatles on August 20, 2013 at 6:52 PM · Report this
I fear that this won't work because the push isn't coming from the Opera Gays. If there were any real danger they'd abandon the Met in droves and take their trust funds with them, things might be different.
Posted by vennominon on August 20, 2013 at 8:53 PM · Report this
I've watched the Met on TV for years. I've sat in the audience on several occasions when visiting New York, the first time in the late '80s, most recently to watch a performance of The Tempest last fall.

Petition is signed.

And I will not patronize the Met, not at Lincoln Center, not in the movie theater, not on the radio, until this is fixed.
Posted by Corydon on August 20, 2013 at 8:59 PM · Report this
@ 21 I'm very much an Opera Gay. But my own self respect comes first.
Posted by Corydon on August 20, 2013 at 9:00 PM · Report this
This is a non-starter. You know what gay men who support the Metropolitan Opera love more than international gay politics? The Metropolitan Opera.
Posted by BABH on August 20, 2013 at 11:36 PM · Report this
@25, lots of boy scouts love the Boy Scouts enough to work to change their policies excluding gays. Similarly, opera-loving gays (if they exist) can work to get the Met to dedicate the performance to LGBT people in Russia.
Posted by EricaP on August 21, 2013 at 10:47 AM · Report this
Someone should pin Anna Netrebko down to get a statement if she does or does not denounce Russia's GLBT law. Because it's gonna be seriously hard for a diva who fosters anti-gay sentiments-- even passively-- to continue making it in a venue with so many gay fans and artists. The Met uses her A LOT both as a live draw and in their HD movie theater broadcasts. I, for one, would like to know if she supports Putin's law-- if so, she and the Met can start kissing a gay fans and their supporters' money goodbye.
Posted by bobbyjoe on August 21, 2013 at 5:22 PM · Report this
@ #9 & #10.... No one is saying they deliberately set this up. These things are done years in advance and Netrebko is a big audience favorite, and there ARE those (usually not playing in the orchestra) who admire Gergiev. At least they bring us the "real deal" in Russian language and tradition. But... really? dishonoring their own great composer this way? It's Putin who put the stick in the spokes. And Gergiev and Netrebko for cozying up to him for personal gain. Imagine Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya "letting this one go". I don't think so.
Posted by composerudin on September 2, 2013 at 7:37 AM · Report this
I think #27 has a good point, so I second "someone" pinning Netrebko down for a statement. She might just agree to do it! I'll tell a friend on the Met staff, who may have some ideas for follow-through on this.
Posted by Mountaine on September 3, 2013 at 10:25 AM · Report this
How can anyone support that idiot, ass, murderer, thug, liar, etc., etc., Vladimir Putin? He's the worst thing to happen to Russia since Lenin and the Metropolitan Opera is sticking their nose up his business. How disgusting! I love opera. I have been involved in classical music my entire life of now 75 years, but I will no longer support the Met. This may be a free country and the opera can do as they wish, but wouldn't it be poetic justice if they were to perform to an empty auditorium? Shame on the Metropolitan Opera. May all your notes be sour!

D.J.Radanovich, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Posted by Dominic Joseph Radanovich on September 3, 2013 at 12:15 PM · Report this
The MET programs so far in advance they could not have possibly predicted this insanity. But even Hitler suspended his "racial laws" for the 1939 Olympics - a path Russia now refuses to emulate. So do not blame the MET, but neither let this issue simply go away. Artistic America has turned into a nation of sheep in so many ways - perhaps as a result of Arts funding being so precarious. There was a time when a Broadway cast (The Crucible) got an entire theater audience to stand in a moment of silence to protest a government action (The Rosenbergs murders). That would never happen today. This is a bigger issue which requires more action than boycotting Florida orange juice. So yes, protest is in order. In any form and in any place and in any voice possible. This is one such voice; use it!
Posted by stagehandy on September 3, 2013 at 1:20 PM · Report this
I hope the same people who caused Michelle Obama much grief at that Maryland house party/ fund raiser succeeds in shuting down the opening night of this production.
Posted by VonLmo on September 4, 2013 at 12:49 PM · Report this
Following are two e-mails I sent with respect to this issue, the first to a member of the LGBT community who is a candidate for the New York City Council seat of Christine Quinn, the other to a major producer at the Metropolitan Opera, the later, like messages left for the Manager of the Met, was never responded to:

Dear Corey and RJ:

I know you are 100% involved with important matters but wanted you to be aware, if you are not already, of a petition to have the Met dedicate the opening of Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin, directed by Gergiev and sung by Netrebko, two of the most famous (Russian) classical artists in the world who actively supported Putin (Gergiev in political advertisements) during his re-election campaign when, among other things, Putin was not only supporting, as he continues to do, Assad and his massacre of his own people but also repression, including of performers ("Pussy Riot") and free speech as well as members of the LGBT community.

Links to (a) the petition, which I signed after learning about it from an article in the NYTimes (as did a brave director at the Met) and (b) to an article by Dan Savage are set forth below as is my letter to the producer of the Saturday broadcasts after two conversations with the assistant of the Manager of the Met, Peter Gelb. Of course, I did not, as I had not expected to, get any response.

I think that this issue deserves some attention in the LGBT community given the outrageous repression in Russia and Russia's support for Assad. I don't tweet, but someone who knows how to will hopefully do what Dan Savage proposed, which is organize a peaceful protest outside the Met to honor those who are being repressed in Russia with the help of the famous artists who have their freedom in Russia and come, live and perform here without any consequence when we have a country where protests are allowed. I would like to see New Yorkers standing up for those who are imprisoned for protesting or for just living as they have human (but not legal) rights to do in Russia.

So, if you have any ideas or if you can just get the message out without disruption to your campaign, if you think it is worthy, I would appreciate your doing so.

Dear Mary Jo:

You will recall, I am sure, that some time ago I sent you comments that I had made online when WQXR addressed Mr. Gergiev's support of Putin during his campaign for the presidency. I was particularly concerned about Mr. Gergiev's and Ms. Netrebko's (artists, celebrities and world renowned figures) lending their support to a Stalinist-like leader who was not only returning Russia to a Stalinist-like repression of dissent and free speech but who was also supporting Assad and therefore the massacre of the Syrian people by Assad then and since.

I only learned of the recent LGBT petition yesterday as a result of the article in the Times and "signed" same, even though I would have preferred the issue to have been more broadly defined to include not just gay rights but human rights and their abuses and repression in Russia.

I called Mr. Gelb's office today to explain my position that, although I agree that artistic organizations should try to avoid "politics" (the position of Mr. Gelb's spokesperson), the issues here do not involve politics but human rights and if the line between artistic expression and "politics" has been crossed, it was done so by Mr. Gergiev and Ms. Netrebko, who can not support a "dictator" and at the same time distance themselves from particular policies consistent with dictatorship.

Furtwangler and Von Karajan (who, like Gergiev, must have benefited greatly, medals or no medals, from support of and by Hilter) would have been subject to criticism if they were to have conducted at the Met during Hilter's reign. Here, no one is asking that Mr. Gergiev and Ms. Netrebko not perform or that the performance be boycotted. In fact, no one is targeting this petition against these performers as such. Indeed, Ms. Netrebko has asserted, as I understand it, that she is a supporter of gay rights, which is a good thing, among other things, because of the number of gays who have most likely made her stardom possible. Thus, I would assume that Ms. Netrebko would have no objection to some mention of Tchaikovsky's past in a way that draws attention, like the recent Supreme Court decisions, to the advancement of LGBT (and therefore human) rights. This is not directed against any one person or politics but against human rights abuses. Under these circumstances, there must be a way in the context of this great Russian composer's torment and the recent advancement of gay rights in many parts of the world to couch a dedication that does not offend but stands up for important principle. (Of course, if it offends Mr. Putin, I should hope that that would neither be a concern nor a consideration).

I can't imagine that the Met can not come up with a means to make a statement that does not in fact "politicize" the arts any more than Mr. Gergiev and Ms. Netrebko already have and that is consistent with their (at least her) stated views without reference to either of them.

I am sure that the person whose petition is at issue would welcome such an outcome, and I hope that the Met will consider some way to accommodate both principle and avoiding "politics" while taking a stand by a simple statement that honors and shows respect for the important human rights involved.
I hope that on September 23, 2013, New Yorkers and others will stand up against the outrageous repression by Putin of human rights in Russia by peacefully protesting at the Met where two of Putin's celebrity supporters will be performing an opera by one of Russia's great (gay) composers. Please tweet, text and otherwise make people aware of this opportunity to stand up against this abhorrent repression.

Gerard Corsini
Posted by wisdomseeker on September 4, 2013 at 3:56 PM · Report this

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