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September 27, 2013

TT: Putin and the petition

In today's Wall Street Journal "Sightings" column I discuss Vladimir Putin, homosexuality, and the Metropolitan Opera. Here's an excerpt.

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600x387.jpgIt's come to the belated attention of New York's opera lovers that Vladimir Putin is a thug. Russia's dictator-in-waiting recently signed a stack of laws whose purpose is to persecute homosexuals. Needless to say, Mr. Putin's odious conduct, not only toward gays but toward anyone who dares to disagree with him, isn't exactly stop-press news to those who've followed his career, but it was the anti-gay legislation that pushed Andrew Rudin, a gay classical composer from New Jersey, over the line. Mr. Rudin responded by posting an online petition calling for the Metropolitan Opera to dedicate its opening-night performance, which took place on Monday, to the "support" of gays in Russia and elsewhere.

Part of made the petition so interesting was its occasion, which was uncommonly timely. It so happened that the Met opened its season with a new production of "Yevgeny Onegin," an opera by Tchaikovsky, who was both Russian and gay (though Vladimir Medinsky, Putin's culture minister, denies the latter, absurdly claiming that "there is no evidence that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual"). Moreover, the performance featured two well-known Russian artists, the conductor Valery Gergiev and the soprano Anna Netrebko, both of whom are unabashed and enthusiastic Putin supporters.

About 9,000 people signed the petition, including Bartlett Sher, one of the Met's best-known stage directors. But Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, declined to go along with their request. "As an institution, the Met deplores the suppression of equal rights here or abroad," he said in a written statement. "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." Not surprisingly, protests followed, both outside and inside the Metropolitan Opera House.

Who got it right? And what should happen next?

To begin with, I'm all for the picketers--though not the protesters who disrupted the opening-night performance, a piece of behavior that was anti-artistic and counterproductive. In addition, I also favor continued efforts to put the squeeze on Mr. Gergiev and Ms. Netrenko....

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Read the whole thing here.

Posted September 27, 2013 12:00 AM

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