Peter Gelb has published an article on Bloomberg, defending his decision not to dedicate his season opener to oppressed gay citizens in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The performance will be conducted by Valery Gergiev, Putin’s kapellmeister, and stars Anna Netrebko, who signed Putin’s election manifesto. The work is Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, whom Putin lackeys have loudly claimed is officially not gay.
Gelb’s case is: As an arts institution, the Met is not the appropriate vehicle for waging nightly battles against the social injustices of the world.
The sad thing is, he’s right. For all that we endorse the public campaign to make Gergiev & Co aware of our disapproval of Putinist policies, the Met is not the right forum for a war of ideas.
Put simply, the Met is a business. It has suppliers (artists), customers (audience) and investors (donors). It needs to keep all three sectors happy to stay in production. If any of the three were to abscond, the Met would have a significant problem.
Gelb has tested the waters. He knows that no major artist will boycott the Met over Russia, no donors will withdraw cash and the public will fail to defect in droves.
Those three omissions tell us that Gelb is right to refuse a dedication.
Right for the business, right for civic purposes, right on the night.
The Met is an opera house, not a debating society. For ideas and ideals, look elsewhere.