New York's Metropolitan Opera may have shamefully refused to dedicate its opening gala last night to Russia's persecuted LGBT community, but activists from the direct action group Queer Nation made sure the issue of LGBT rights in Russia was center stage nonetheless.
According to a press release from the group, four members of Queer Nation NY unfurled a rainbow flag in the hall just as the performance was about to begin. They chanted "Putin, stop, end your war on Russian gays!" and "Anna [Netrebko], your silence is killing Russian gays! Valery [Gergiev], your silence is killing Russian gays!"
Queer Nation reports that the protest delayed the start of the performance and was met "by a flurry of boos and a hearty round of applause" from the audience, which reportedly included celebrities like Brooke Shields and Heather Graham. Security officials led the demonstrators peacefully out of the opera house afterwards.
As I noted here on Bilerico last week, Monday's event was a gala performance of Eugene Onegin, an opera written by gay Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It was conducted by Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, and Russian soprano Anna Netrebko sang the leading soprano role of Tatiana. Both are die-hard supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government is conducting a major crackdown on the rights and freedoms of LGBT people in that country.
Gergiev has never commented on the controversy; Netrebko -- who was reportedly upset backstage because of the protests -- issued a generic statement last month on her Facebook page pledging that she personally will never discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
While Met Opera general manager Peter Gelb refused to formally dedicate the evening to Russia's beleaguered LGBT community, the New York Times reports that an opinion piece he penned for Bloomberg News condemning Russia's anti-gay laws was printed out and inserted into every program.
The action inside the opera house was not the only pro-equality demonstration at the Metropolitan Opera gala last night -- dozens of Queer Nation NY activists also protested outside the building. They passed out fliers to audience-goers, waved signs, chanted slogans, and held a 50-foot rainbow banner reading "Support Russian Gays!"
Graphic by Scott Wooledge, Memeographs Studio.
Photo: AP/Scott Wooledge, Queer Nation NY