As protesters prepare to picket the Metropolitan Opera’s sold-out production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in New York Sept 22, the Met’s general manager has written an opinion on bloomberg.com, defending the decision not to dedicate the performance to LGBT Russians, despite pressure to do so.
A Queer Nation NY Facebook page says the Met has “refused to explicitly condemn Russia's attacks on LGBT Russians and it refused to dedicate the Gala to LGBT people.” Queer Nation is calling for a protest of “the Met's silence” and of the Russian artists who will be performing Sept 22: soprano Anna Netrebko and conductor Valery Gergiev.
Netrebko and Gergiev are reportedly long-time supporters of President Vladimir Putin, who continues to insist that there’s no discrimination against gay people in Russia, even as he’s signed off on a number of anti-gay laws that have sparked global condemnation and protests.
But in his opinion piece, the Met’s Peter Gelb writes that while he is “confident” that many of the company’s members join him in “deploring the tyranny of Russia’s new anti-gay laws,” he and the company also oppose the laws of the 76 countries that “go even further than Russia in the outright criminalization of homosexuality.”
He says that as an arts institution, the Met is “not the appropriate vehicle for waging nightly battles against the social injustices of the world,” noting that over its season, artists from many countries with poor human rights records perform there.
“If we were to devote tonight’s performance to Russian injustice, how could we possibly stop there?” he asks.
He notes that while the Met has never dedicated a performance to a political or social cause in its 129-year history, the company’s members are engaged in social advocacy inside the Met, “through the choice of our LGBT rainbow of artists and staff.”
He concludes, “Although Russia may officially be in denial about Tchaikovsky’s sexuality, we’re not. The Met is proud to present Russia’s great gay composer. That is a message, in itself.”