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As Duma debates anti-gay law, Billy Budd receives its Russian premiere

The Russian Parliament will today start discussing an anti-gay bill which will, among other things, impose heavy fines for public kissing and what is termed ‘homosexual propaganda’.

Last night, better late than never, the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg staged the Russian premiere of Billy Budd, Benjamin Britten’s all-male shipboard opera.

Andrei Bondarenko sang the title role and the opera was conducted by the theatre’s MD Mikhail Tatarnikov in the well-travelled Willy Decker production.

Funny how art sometimes counterpoints life.

 

billy budd st pete

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Comments

  1. Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:

    Unbelievable! Putin and the Orthodox church make neoconservatives and the religious right here in the U.S. look like Pride Parade wannabees!

    I never had any idea it was getting that bad in Russia. No doubt Uncle Joe in looking up from Hell and smiling.

  2. Lord Montague says:

    This is not what Big Brother says. You will be assimilated.

  3. Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    I think the keeper of the flame of this blog was simply noting the irony of the timing. There is no direct link. To me, Billy Budd has always represented a “Christ” figure who had to die so that others could be redeemed (like the ships captain). Melville’s unfinished novel (considered by many to be his masterpiece) has a universal theme. The universal theme of Mr. Putin is Mr. Putin. Just ask Gergiev who serves at his beck and call (all in the service of art, I’m sure).

    Concerning Putin and the comparison to the government in the USA, may he become like George W. Bush, forgotten AND gone. Putin makes Medvedev look like Abraham Lincoln.

  4. @ Reiner: very little, beyond the fact of Britten’s own sexuality. There is an interpretation of the piece (which I’m guessing Norman has in mind) that has the actions of Claggart and/or Vere ascribed to suppressed homosexuality but it’s rather quaint and doesn’t hold up to careful scrutiny of the text.

  5. Reiner,
    there’s quite a tradition of associating Billy Budd with male homosexuality. It was created by a homosexual composer and (more than one) homosexual librettist, it features an all-male cast. Alex Ross, in his book The Rest Is Noise, devotes quite some time to Britten’s fascination with depicting beautiful young men on the stage…

    One needn’t go quite as far as this production or this critic
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2005/dec/02/classicalmusicandopera.hermanmelville
    but it’s certainly designed in a way that can support almost whatever gay subtext the director might care to inject into it. As glerb and the above critic point out, there may be little textual evidence (at least bytoday’s more open standards) to support such readings; but Britten’s was an extremely closeted time, and he and his circle were well accustomed to making much out of little in such matters.

  6. Trickster says:

    Yeah, it’s the gayest opera in the universe with a tenor/baritone/bass triangle, tons of angst, by a gay composer, a gay librettist, from the novella of a gay author, oh, and the original Captain Vere was Britten’s life partner.

    So it’s basically a “fuck you Putin” gesture.

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