If you were there, please share your impressions. Slipped Disc takes the view that concert and opera performances are not an appropriate forum for vocalising political protest.
UPDATE: Here’s an eyewitness report from string player Kathleen Thomson: ‘I was in Carnegie Hall. The lights went down, the orchestra tuned, and the audience energy felt invigorating. I was so excited to hear this performance of Firebird, Petroushka AND Rite of Spring, all in one evening. Gergiev takes his bow, then readies the low voices for the murmuring opening of Firebird. At that point, before the actual downbeat, human voices filled the hall, protesters. Gergiev remained poised to start, the protesters continued. A few folks clapped a bit. Voices quieted, then a second round of protests breaks out, Gergiev still poised to begin. On the second round, many audience members boos or shushed. That was the end of protests. The concert was amazing. I am so glad that no protesters vandalized the actual music by interrupting once it began.’
LGBT Rights Group Demands Putin Supporter
Oppose Russian Anti-LGBT Laws
New York, NY (October 10, 2013) — Tonight, four members of the LGBT rights group Queer Nation disrupted the performance of the Mariinsky Orchestra, led by world-renowned conductor Valery Gergiev, demanding that Gergiev oppose the Russian government’s attacks on LGBT Russians and that Russia end its war on LGBT Russians.
Queer Nation members chanted, “Gergiev, Your Silence is Killing Russian Gays!” before the Carnegie Hall performance began. The protesters, who were met mostly with applause but also with some boos, were led away by security guards. There were no arrests.
Gergiev, the artistic and general director at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, is a longtime Putin friend and supporter. Gergiev has been honored by the Russian government and by the Russian Orthodox Church, both of which championed Russia’s anti-gay laws. Gergiev campaigned for Putin in 2012. The Mariinsky Theatre has received hundreds of millions of rubles from the Russian government.
“Valery Gergiev should not be able to perform without being called out for his vocal support of Russia’s anti-gay president,” said John Weir, one of the protesters. “Gergiev’s silence about Putin’s anti-gay laws is killing lesbian and gay Russians. We’re here to break that silence.”
Earlier in the evening, Queer Nation protested in front of Carnegie Hall. Demonstrators, including several Russian gay men and women, carried a 60-foot rainbow flag that read “Support Russian Gays” and held placards. Protestors also handed out informational flyers to arriving audience members and passersby.
On October 4, Queer Nation wrote to Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s executive and artistic director, asking that Carnegie Hall condemn the Russian government’s attacks on LGBT Russians. He declined, adding that “musical events are not the appropriate setting for political statements.”
The protest at Carnegie Hall is the latest in a series of high-profile demonstrations against the Russian government’s anti-gay laws. On September 23, four protestors from Queer Nation delayed the start of the Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Night Gala at Lincoln Center, where Gergiev conducted Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.
In June, the Russian government enacted legislation that effectively bans any pro-LGBT statement in public or private and on the Internet. In July, a law banning adoptions of Russian children by people from any jurisdiction that allows same-sex marriage took effect. Currently, the Russian parliament is considering legislation that would remove children from any Russian household that is headed by a gay or lesbian parent. There has been a sharp rise in anti-LGBT violence in Russia.