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Anna Netrebko issues statement on gay rights (no mention of Russia)

The soprano has posted the following on her Facebook fan page:

“As an artist, it is my great joy to collaborate with all of my wonderful colleagues—regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I have never and will never discriminate against anyone.” -Anna Netrebko

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  1. David Gifford says:

    Well, that is very nice to know.
    It would have had more impact, however, if she’d targeted her comments at the appalling ant-gay legislation recently brought in by Putin’s vile government.
    She has huge ‘star power’ in Russia. People like her should speak out.

    • Robert Switzer says:

      Isn’t it obvious why she made this statement now? I think she would risk arrest whenever she returns to Russia.

      • Let’s not get carried away, Robert!

        • Paul Schleuse says:

          From the law it appears that Netrebko risks getting fined, if not arrested. Here is what Article 6.21 actually says:

          Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors [note: Facebook is open to minors over age 12] that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.

          If you’re Russian. Individuals engaging in such propaganda can be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles … If you engage in the said propaganda in the media or on the internet, the sliding scale of fines shifts: for individuals, 50,000 to 100,000 rubles.

    • itrinkkeinwein says:

      Agree 100%. It’s an empty statement, helping only Anna Netrebko.

      • Monica Rivers says:

        I find it amusing that an anonymous commenter hiding behind a pseudonym should criticize anyone for making an “empty statement.”

    • Gonout Backson says:

      Must be her old diction problem.

  2. I am sure those in support of the Russian legislation would suggest they do not discriminate, either. The question is not whether she would “collaborate.” The question is whether she would have the same colleagues to dinner at her home, and whether she agrees with the policy supported by the man she had publicly endorsed.

  3. Ignacio Martínez-Ybor says:

    Netrebko has set a public norm for her personal conduct. It is a public statement of conscience.

    I don’t know her personal situation and one should refrain from being censorious when, after all, she has taken a public stand on her beliefs.

    There are many more who could speak out, in whichever fashion or however emphatically, who have said nothing.

    The whole matter is appalling.

  4. I am particularly fond of Anna’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.” However, I am not at all pleased with this statement. It is meaningless. Either she supports the current regime’s anti-gay laws or she does not. It would be nice to know. Moreover, bad things are undone when good people speak out against them.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      So, does every high-profile artist who has publicly supported Obama now need to vomit their oppostion to Guantanamo and, more recently, NSA intelligence-gathering? Stop this pathetic bullying in aid of a cause du jour, it’s getting boring.

      • Fabio Fabrici says:

        Don’t expect answers. They are all blind for this. It’s too close to them. Or can you see what’s under your chin or in the crack of your precious bottom? See, they only can criticize Russia, not their own government, never.

        • Fabio,
          I think we can find people attacking Netrebko, but defending Dudamel concerning his support to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. I’m not saying everyone committed this contradiction here, but in these cases, it is even worse than pure blindness to their own government.

      • McGuiver,
        It was exactly the same thing I was wondering while reading the comments here. How easy to play the politically correct one concerning Russia issues.

  5. Well, well, well–so Anna Netrebko doesn’t hate gay people? Or she just doesn’t “discriminate” against them?

    One would like to know, especially since Netrebko is a prominent supporter of the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Will she applaud as gay Russians are harassed, arrested, and even murdered due to an ever-increasing anti-gay climate fostered by Putin’s anti-gay bigotry? With friends like those, who needs enemies?

    As for me, I will be boycotting Netrebko’s performances and recordings. Tant pis!

  6. How can one both love the gayz AND be a sworn supporter of a leader who wants to jail them?

    • As far as I know, being gay is absolutely legal in Russia. Not legal (and this is what the new law is about) is just presentation of gay pride to minors, what is absolutely ok. It is also not legal to present pornography or nudity to children.

      I can not understand, why people are speaking about Russia, but are not speaking about situation in Jamaica, where gays are punished. My impression is, that the whole story is not about LGBT rights, but rather about Russia-bashing. Looking at situation with Snowden, I even can understand why.

      • @aj – People spoke out about Jamaica over and over again a decade or so ago. It made no difference.

        Some cruises (gay ones, mostly) quit stopping in Jamaica, and a few Jamaican pop musicians who included particularly vicious anti-gay statements in their songs (e.g., Buju Banton’s “Burn Dem”, which was about shooting and burning gay men) lost some gigs, but otherwise it had little effect. Anti-gay laws and sentiments have very wide support among Jamaica’s population, I’m afraid. So people moved on.

    • Timon Wapenaar says:

      Alvarus: It’s called doublethink.

  7. Cookie the Just says:

    This is probably the best we can expect from her. It’s enough. Everyone who is tuned in knows why she’s making this positive declaration. Certainly Putin knows.

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Yes, she made it to show up those pathetic bullies who have doorstepped her for no apparent reason.

  8. James Ar. says:

    It would have more impact if it was written by her and not by her publicist (she isn’t the most eloquent in case you haven’t seen her being interviewed). But who really cares nowadays.

  9. You have to congratulate her PR people though for such a bland statement. Bet it was lawyered to death as well.

  10. Theodore McGuiver says:

    What a shame she felt bullied into saying something at all.

  11. Tim Walton says:

    We can’t expect more in case she upsets her friend Putin.

    What a pathetic comment from Netrebco.

    Gutless & shameful.

  12. Timon Wapenaar says:

    “I have never and will never discriminate against anyone.”

    Especially the FSB. Never discriminate against the FSB.

  13. Gurnemanz says:

    So many QEDs in these comments…I hate it when I’m right.

  14. I still don’t understand why she needs owes anyone any public comment at all.

  15. Who really cares what celebrities have to say when it comes to political or social issues? My stance on the issues of the day or political candidates has never budged one centimeter because of comments of an actor, musician, athlete, artist, etc. They’re mostly just entertainers, which is job enough, not great worldly thinkers.

  16. Putin is right. The law doesn’t intend to persecute gays. It was designed to avoid proselitism and gay propaganda, which is destroying Western mentality and growing a bunch of effeminate men with a pathetical behavior. Do as you wish in your intimacy, but don’t impose your anormal behavior on society. That’s all. And Netrebko will never buy this fight with Putin. Ditto Gergiev. Both depend on political support and money from the old KGB mafia.

    • David Gifford says:

      Well, if you had a son who turned out to be gay, would you spout the same ignorant and spiteful bile? I hope not, for his sake, and for yours.

      You are wrong on so many counts: being gay is not a life choice, and the vast majority of gay men and women do not proselytise, or propagandise (we are too busy getting on with our lives).

      No doubt you were a supporter of Thatcher’s Clause 28, which alienated so many young people who were in the process of coming to terms with being gay. Putin’s law might mirror Clause 28 superficially, but its effect is to worsen violent and unprovoked attacks on gay people.

      By ‘abnormal’ and ‘pathetic behaviour’ I take it you mean sex. So what is wrong in expressing your love for someone in a physical way? It is it the idea of anal intercourse that so upsets you? Well, perhaps you didn’t know, but that is not exactly uncommon amongst homosexuals.

      I buy your final comments; it’s just a shame that you had to manipulate your response in order to exercise your bigotry.

      • David Gifford says:

        Correction: I meant to say: “It is not entirely uncommon amongst heterosexals”.

        • Any kind of sexual practice should be kept private. AIDS however is spread through the means that you mentioned, for male or female. If any of my kids said they thought they were really members of the opposite sex (after all “T” rights are being sought) we would go straight to therapy. For I believe it would be not only his or her doing but my failure as a parent not to feel comfortable in one’s skin. So much of childhood is opaque and confusion but the norm should be held up, not the exception. Children and young adults may have the same emotional capacities but their frontal lobes usually don’t mature until the early 20′s. They don’t see cause and effect clearly nor can weigh the consequences of certain choices until they are older. Therefore, they must be protected from anything remotely unhealthy, even smoking.

    • itrinkkeinwein says:

      Sounds like you’d better stay in your non-Western country, for risk of offense. But work on your education, OK?

  17. I can only agree with Theodore McGuiver: “What a shame she felt bullied into saying something at all.”

    If I disagree publicly with certain political idiots, then I lose business. Not in my interest. And it clearly can’t be in her interest to disagree with the bear riding homophobic in the Kreml on this very important issue.

    If the “West” would care enough about Putin’s evil side, they would stop doing business with his country. They don’t, so why should an individual be forced to risk some of her income?

    • Gurnemanz says:

      If the “West” truly cared about “gay rights” it would stop doing business with the Muslim world as well since in every Muslim country just being a homosexual is a criminal offense, somewhere actually punishable by death(being put to death is a tad bit worse then being told that one can not parade it’s sexual preferences publicly, me thinks).

      • Of course, I should have included other countries too. Makes it even worse to force one individual to make a statement.

  18. If interested in seeing how Russians themselves understand intent and purpose of their new law, please take a look at . The article is in connection with upcoming international sporting events in Russia. First this leading official says that they simply do not want “naked people running around displaying their homosexuality” — apparently naked people running around displaying their heterosexuality is perfectly fine with them. And then he proclaims that “The Olympics and World Cup are not a stage for various views — not for Nazis, not for any other ways of life”. So, you see, since homosexuals are just as bad as Nazis… Any questions?

    • Gurnemanz says:

      Gay-rights activists have for quite a long time smeared opponents with a “nazi” label, and now they are indignant that someone throws it back at them! How childish. In the words of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris(who in turn took it from the Bible), they’ve sown the wind, they are now reaping the whirlwind.

      • This century homophobes and last century Nazis have at least one thing in common – their homophobia – so to make such analogy may actually not be without merit. The analogy offered by that Russian official whom I quoted above, on the other hand, does a great job of encouraging violence against homosexuals.

  19. @m2n2k What nonsense: “apparently naked people running around displaying their heterosexuality is perfectly fine with them”. Maybe you didn’t see young women in Russia being arrested for being almost naked The law is against sexual propaganda around children and presumably naked adults which is pretty gross for the most part and offends public propriety. There is no need to display “heterosexuality”, to say “look at me I am straight”. All this folderol puts the lie to “all we want to do is live our lives in private”. Yeah, right!

    • “”

    • “There is no need to display ‘heterosexuality’, to say ‘look at me I am straight’.”

      You display your heterosexuality every time you refer to your spouse.

      And (unless you’re a Catholic priest) you never have to worry about losing your job, being evicted from your home, becoming estranged from your family, or being beaten up by someone if you display your heterosexuality in such a manner.

      • Oh and how about losing your source of income if you refuse to make cakes for same sex weddings, or not rent out Christian bed and breakfast to those whose lifestyle you don’t agree with, lose your job as a clerk if you refuse to sign same sex marriages, or even tweet to someone as has happened in Scotland a person who tweeted his dislike of a certain educational minister who happened to be lesbian and got fined $62,000? Some tolerant society we are living in and is getting more totalitarian, because tolerance is not enough. In fact, the whole premise of this article is about bullying a singer into making statements that she has every right not to make or even consider.
        Furthermore, I don’t “display” heterosexuality. I am just me, that’s it. What kind of people need to broadcast and display themselves all the time? Exhibitionists. It’s getting so bloody tiresome.

        • If true, the situations you have described above here are certainly unfortunate and possibly worse than that. If you multiply all those by many thousands, you might begin to come closer to equaling the unjust treatment that LBG people have been “enjoying” for centuries.

    • That, cj, was precisely my point: since laws dealing with public indecency already existed before, there was no need for this new law. That “explanation” by the Russian official who was authorized to speak on this law’s behalf is indeed nonsensical. The true purpose of this law is clearly discriminatory, pure and simple.

  20. Gurnemanz says:

    And speaking of this throwing around the “nazi” label against anyone opposing gay activism, here is an interesting dystopian novel from 1937 that describes what the world would look like if the nazis were to conquer it.

    Some interesting elements in it: “Though no major character is a woman, the story concentrates on the oppression of women, portraying the Nazis as homosexual misogynists.” Now, why would that be? Where would she get this crazy idea that nazism has homosexual undercurrents, especially given the fact that she actually lived in that era?

    “Though Japan is the only rival superpower to the Nazi West, their inevitable wars always end in stalemate. The fascist Germans and Japanese suffer much difficulty in maintaining their populations, because of the physical degeneration of their women.” Ya think?

    But according to the gay rights activists of today, this woman, who noticed the evils of nazism far before it engaged on a war of extermination and opposed it far before it became fashionable, is just the same as the nazis. Go figure!

    • A novel is a work of fiction and is therefore completely irrelevant in this discussion.

    • @Gurnemanz I was about to say, why resort to fiction when there is historical research, bursting with unassailable facts?
      “… List, a close associate of Lanz, formed the Guido von List Society in Vienna in 1904. The Guido von List Society was accused of practicing a form of Hindu Tantrism which featured sexual perversion in its rituals. This form of sexual perversion was popularized in occult circles by a man named Aleister Crowley who, according to Hitler biographer J. Sydney Jones, enjoyed “playing with black magic and little boys” (J. S. Jones:123). List was “accused of being the Aleister Crowley of Vienna” (ibid.:123). Like Lanz, List was an occultist; he wrote several books on the magic principles of rune letters (from which he chose the “SS” symbol). In 1908, List “was unmasked as the leader of a blood brotherhood which went in for sexual perversion and substituted the swastika for the cross” (Sklar:23). The Nazis borrowed heavily from List’s occult theories and research. List also formed an elitist occult priesthood called the Armanen Order, to which Hitler himself may have belonged (Waite, 1977:91).
      The Nazi dream of an Aryan super-race was adopted from an occult group called the Thule Society, founded in 1917 by followers of Lanz and List. The occult doctrine of the Thule Society held that the survivors of an ancient and highly developed lost civilization could endow Thule initiates with esoteric powers and wisdom. The initiates would use these powers to create a new race of Aryan supermen who would eliminate all “inferior” races. Hitler dedicated his book, Mein Kampf, to Dietrich Eckart, one of the Thule Society inner circle and a former leading figure in the German Worker’s Party. (Schwarzwaller:67). The various occult groups mentioned above were outgrowths of the Theosophical Society, whose founder, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, is thought by some to have been a lesbian (Webb:94), and whose “bishop” was a notorious pederast named Charles Leadbeater.”

      • This bunch of nonsense has just about the same degree of credibility as lots of other garbage that can be found on Internet. But if you choose to believe it because it fits your view of the world, it is certainly your right to do so. Innuendos culminating in “is thought by some to have been a lesbian” are truly laughable. However many Nazis were involved in “non-traditional” sexual practices should be condemned not because they did so but because of those crimes against humanity in which they were participating. Whatever consenting adults do in the privacy of their own residences is absolutely none of our business.

  21. am confused says:

    Well, wait. If Trebs comes out in support of gay rights against the government, does that not put in her an awkward position? Possibly could be construed as “promoting a homosexual agenda to minors,” right, because any public statement on the internet can be read by minors, so… What exactly do people expect her to say?

  22. Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    I am far more interested in a statement from Maestro Gergiev. Unless I am mistaken, he is deafenlingly silent.

    • Of course he is. Whatever side he takes, he’ll lose business. It’s not in his interest to make a statement.

  23. Some highly placed Russians do a fine job explaining how they see the purpose and intent of their new law. Here is another one: . She is far more gentle than the previous “explainer”: instead of equating gays with Nazis, she simply calls them abnormal and substandard. Nicely put, Yelena.

    • Maybe the choice of wording comes from simple math: Approx. 20% non-heteros vs approx. 80% heteros. The 80% is the norm, the rest an abnorm or non-standard.

      • 80% is a very low estimate, more like 97-98%.

        • And these numbers justify what exactly?
          There are no more than 5% of world population who are fans of what we call “western classical music”. The rest are normal standard people who are not interested in it at all. So let’s protect children from our kind of music because god forbid some of them might become as abnormal and substandard as we are… What a brilliant idea!

          • The dissolution by way of redefinition, of the nuclear, monogamous family, the cornerstone so far of our civilization with all its achievements and faults, is plenty to be phobic about. Destroying those protective limits based on natural law, not only religious, inevitably leads to the virtual impossibility to preclude incest and polyamory, producing feral children without a past and future.
            Non-persecution is one thing and to be desired, but if can be proven that there is no agenda underway to implode the family, to persecute those who are not in agreement with hitherto unconventional “lifestyles”, to destroy freedom of speech and religious expression, and by extension, the livelihoods of those who say or imply such a lifestyle so far has not demonstrated it is free of rampant promiscuity, disease or violence, then there should be no fear mongering.
            I still do not see the need, nor the right, of any group to parade down the street shaking their asses. There are plenty of more important issues going on in the world.
            Even paranoiacs have real enemies.

          • It is not dissolution but evolution which with a little bit of luck might lead to more achievements and fewer faults. Neither incest nor polyamory bother me in principle, as long as everything is happening between adults with informed consent and equality under the law. Proving a negative is practically impossible and presumption of innocence should apply. Indecency in public places is equally undesirable, whether it is hetero or homo, and therefore laws governing it should not single out one type of offensive conduct but not the other. And since you estimated in one of your recent comments that up to 98% of humanity are “normal and standard”, it seems puzzling to me that you are so scared that misbehavior by a certain part of the remaining 2% is somehow capable of ruining our civilization. There are far more serious existential threats in our world during this century.

          • Oh so the complete moral breakdown of society is not an existential threat? Also as in the decline of the Roman Empire, freedoms are diminishing and dictatorial behavior is increasing. How is it possible when tolerance or “rights” are being blasted from every rooftop and cable antenna? Because there are LIMITS to freedom – the best for the greatest number which is not complete pandemonium, everyone acting out their own whims.
            Still, the point of the Russian law is concerned with the best environment to raise children. It has been proven with one’s own biological parents in a safe, secure setting. Form and function is not an idle correlation in nature. You can use a screwdriver to cut a cake, but that is not what it was desgined for.

          • Yes, moral breakdown is very dangerous, but treating minorities like equals, with respect and understanding, is the most moral thing that those in the majority can do to avoid just such a breakdown. The law we are talking about here essentially criminalizes any public expression or mention of anything that can be interpreted by those in power as “non-traditional” (as they like to call it) sexuality and gives them a “legal” right to prosecute such “offenders” whenever Russian leaders feel like it. By the way, even if children’s own biological parents are best qualified to raise their children (which is of course not always the case), I must have missed it when anyone anywhere ever demanded that any children be taken away from their own biological parents who are willing to raise them in a non-abusive environment and be given to anyone else. As for your lament about diminishing freedoms and dictatorial behavior, those are my feelings exactly which is one of the main reasons why I detest this law.

          • @m2n2k The telescoped view of rights has only to do with those demanding them. Flattened out thinking is a characteristic of the “Me Generations”. However, rights are contingent on a hierarchy of values. One might have the option to speak out on the street and complain about the government or the price of fuel, but there are restrictions in most places as to volume. Playing loud music or screaming would be considered “disturbing the peace” if nearly everyone is resting at 2AM.
            Similarly, the right of children to have a mother and father is higher than two or more people who would challenge this DNA encrypted need. Why do adopted children from stable homes still want to find their “real” parents? Of course, there are abusive families of origin but something about a child who comes from your own flesh and blood, who carries your genes, binds one generation to the next. Who in tarnation has the right to overturn the transmission of not only biological paternity but also culture? It is as of yet, an untested social experiment predicted in Huxley’s Brave New World. written way back in 1931. In the book, babies were hatched from test tubes and bottles. Huxley read well the social experiments of the time regarding children freed from the ties to their biological parents who could turn them in easily to the KGB while pledging their highest loyalty to the dictator, as in the Nazi Lebensborn. The latter actually happened in Romania where orphaned children were brainwashed from day 1 to regard Ceaucescu as their “father”, and of course what has been going on with 3 generations of tyrants in North Korea.
            What has this to do with freedom? A lot, because some freedoms are now having more clout than traditional values, which after all was a compromise but tried to proved the greatest good for the greatest number. Non-proliferation of sexual materials to children in the schools is a more than reasonable law to protect them. OK, there may be some extremists on both ends of the spectrum with freedom to express their thoughts but not always the freedom to act out. Instead, in the West the freedom NOT to do something, NOT to participate in abortion or anything that offends a person’s conscience is being trampled over daily. This is the irony and fallacy of guaranteeing complete freedom.
            As in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” some animals are freer that others. In a society where restraints have already broken down, brute force enforces the new freedoms.

          • All this talk about “children freed from the ties to their biological parents” is completely irrelevant because the law in question does not deal with that “problem” (probably for the simple reason that it does not exist – even in the eyes of Russian homophobes). “Non-proliferation of sexual materials to children in the schools” is a gross misrepresentation of the letter and spirit of that new law. If i remember correctly, it explicitly does not prohibit anything heterosexual and it clearly does not limit its prohibitions to schools only. If i am mistaken, show me the text to prove that my memory is faulty. There is no such thing as “complete freedom”, but there is something that is called equality of legal protections. Demanding that is fair and just.

          • @m2n2k Dissolution of the family is exactly what the law strives to protect:

          • @m2n2k Correction: the above should read “protect against”.
            The reason that Russia on the whole has not thrown away traditional values is not due to being behind the times or having a intransigent population. They simply were not bombarded over the past 40 years or so by Hollywood and TV promoting the self-infulgent lifestyle and pushing the limits of shock value in order to get ratings and money. Men and family-hating radical feminism has been a big factor plus the wealthy, socialist interests of one-worldism have been footing the bill. “Social justice” is a touchy feely catch phrase that masks its totalitarian agenda. Usurpation of the concept of rights is part and parcel of their Bolshevik means of getting what they want, a COMPLETE redefinition of society. We can throw out most of Romantic literature and music. It won’t be needed in the Brave New World.

          • Thank you for finding the text. As I expected, it does not prohibit anything heterosexual and it does not limit it’s prohibitions to schools. You did indeed misrepresent the content of the law. The rest of my responses can be found in my previous comments.

          • Darn that automatic spelling “correction”!
            My comment above should say “its prohibitions”, of course.

          • @m2n2k The law is specific about protecting the family which so far has not been in dispute about its importance to children and society. You wrote: “it explicitly does not prohibit anything heterosexual and it clearly does not limit its prohibitions to schools only.”
            Heterosexual is not a lifestyle but just IS. It’s how we got here, the ying/yang creative impulse of the universe. It does not need to be promoted or displayed because it is commonsense.
            A distinction should be made between what is now termed the “homosexualist agenda” in order to radically change society that not all homosexuals are in agreement with and some straight people are on board. The strategy had been set out clearly in 1985 titled the Gay Agenda by Marshall Kirk and Dr. Hunter Madsen. The latter changed his pen name to Erastes Pill.

          • The law CLAIMS to be “about protecting the family” but that does not mean that that is what it actually does. What it HAS done so far is the following: it made some people cancel their plans of visiting Russia – most publicly, people in sports and arts – which hurts not only those people themselves but also robs Russian sports fans and arts lovers; plus (which in this case is more like a minus) it inflicts harm on Russian economy.
            If “heterosexual is not a lifestyle” (I certainly never said it was), then neither is homosexual. These are simply sexual preferences: both heterosexuals and homosexuals can and do choose to live a variety of “lifestyles”. Not having time (or, frankly, enough curiosity) to verify authenticity of the text to which you provided a link, I can only say that one can agree or disagree with certain parts of it, but its stated goal – equality of legal rights – is just and noble. In any case, gays certainly made considerable progress in that area since mid-1980s, so maybe other minorities should learn tactics and strategy from them.
            You may be right that heterosexuality “does not need to be promoted or displayed”, but in fact it is – all the time and everywhere. As you correctly (though slightly pompously) noted, heterosexuality is a “creative impulse of the universe”, and therefore there is no need to worry about meager 2-3% (thanks again for your numbers) taking over the world.

    • Fabio Fabrici says:

      m2n2k, could you point out where she called gays “sub-standard”? I can’t find anything, that points into that direction. She has also made clear that she is against any discrimination of gay people.

      • She did not use the word sub-standard but she clearly implied that gays are non-standard, and since she definitely did not mean that they are superior then the only remaining choice for the meaning of her words is that she considers them inferior. As you yourself correctly pointed out more than once in your comments on other threads here, the law in question is homophobic, therefore so is supporting it.

  24. Cookie the Just says:

    This discussion should be elevated a bit with some facts. An enormous percentage of the Russian people fear and hate gay people as something evil — something like 85 percent, according to surveys cited in a recent New York Times report. They’ve got the Russian Orthodox church speaking against gay people, political leaders speaking against gay people. The public profile of gay people there is thus very far from reality. It might be said to equate with American attitudes of the late 1940s to the late 1960s. That this disconnect with reality is the state of affairs in a country that’s been more Westernized and more open over the past couple of decades — and has the Internet — is hard to conceive. But, like China, Russia has very little experience in “individualist” thinking and free self-expression. Anything alternate in the sexual realm is to be feared and put down. Conformity is the norm. Paranoia is the norm. Fear of the other is the norm. And the political leaders love control.

    As people aware of the arts, we know that Western art of all kinds challenges this way of thinking and that our artistic traditions have worked to establish a greater freedom of expression for everyone for something like a century. What’s going on in Russia now is not that different than the imposition of “Soviet realism” on all art produced there over several decades, or the ravings of the Nazis about corrupt modern art. Mind control and suppression of art go hand in hand.

    The culture war that is going on in Russia will inevitably be won by self-expression and individualism. There are already so many cracks in the dam! But that doesn’t mean there won’t be ugly things happening for several years as all this plays out. There’s still a great deal of homophobia in American life, so we can’t really expect Russia to free itself of it in a snap — it’s too useful to them, if only to the nationalists who want their fellow Russians to hate the West. The Republicans here have had to swear off gay-bashing, for the most part. But this has happened only recently, long after gay rights was openly discussed in the media for decades, slowly changing the public profile of gay people to be more accurate.

    So see this current opera star controversy as being both major and minor — highly symbolic, but not likely to change much at all. The escalation of persecution will prompt many homosexuals to leave Russia for the West, in much the same way American gay people left small towns and rural areas, where they had no support, to congregate and live somewhat normal lives in communities in big cities from the 1920s on.

    I think Netrebko’s statement is about all we can expect from any Russian artist working on the world stage. Sure, it’s a “publicist’s” statement, but it’s also revolutionary. She’s drawing a line against the kind of behavior and discrimination we all deplore. That said, a mass demonstration coinciding with the Met’s opening gala — not focused on any single artist, or the company — would be entirely appropriate. It would show Russians, and the world, that we do have freedom of expression in this country and can use it to speak truth to power in calling for an end to the Russian government’s stupidity. Thatcher’s law was repealed, but not without many people speaking out. She and her moral guardians didn’t win. And neither will Putin’s twisted crew. They need to be told that, loudly and clearly!

  25. Robert Richmann says:

    Dedicating the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera to the worldwide LGBT community is a humanitarian and not a political gesture. It neither criticizes Ms. (Madame?) Netrebko and Maestro Gergiev nor compels them to alter their political beliefs or affiliations in the slightest. It does not take an anti-Russian stance. It would merely affirm the commitment of the Met to equal rights for all human beings.

    If Mr. Gelb cannot see the simple reasoning behind this, then I for one cannot see the HD broadcast of an event that refuses to acknowledge the suffering of the Russian LGBT community (including Tchaikovsky in something of an extended sense) and cannot bring itself to express solidarity with them — and I would encourage others to do the same. Everyone knows that this is the real money maker for the Met, and I imagine the response to a boycott would be quite positive in Europe and possibly South America.

    Would Mr. Gelb have found it appropriate to resist calls for dedicating the opening night of the Met in the 1930s and 1940s to and in solidarity with Jewish (and other) victims of persecution in Nazi Germany? This strikes me as an untenable stance.

    if Peter Gelb does not come to his senses!

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