Dictator’s opera house announces deal with Covent Garden

Valery Gergiev presided, as arranged at the opening production of the $280 million opera house built by the Kazakh dictator, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

So far, so unsurprising. Gergiev likes rich dictators. But what’s this in the press release? ‘Astana Opera has signed preliminary co-production agreements with the Rome Opera and one of the leading opera houses of the world, Covent Garden.

Really?  Are we not a little fastidious about dealing with tyrants?

Other opera houses working with the Kazakhs are: Opera South Africa, Shanghai Grand, Lyric Opera of Singapore, the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet of Bulgaria, the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre.




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  • Well, Astana doesn’t have a resident opera company of any particular scale to fill its new house, so it makes sense for them to import productions from other houses. I just wonder where the audience will come from; Astana has fewer than 1 million residents and it’s not a town with a rich history of patronizing western music.

    As for Nazarbayev, having lived in Astana for three years I’ll concede he’s no democrat, but you shouldn’t equate him with the rulers of some other states in the region; he has a vision for developing Kazakhstan into a first-world, westernized country, and has made huge investments in people and infrastructure to that end. The people are quite pro-western. As for Gergiev, I’ll just say I’ve always found him to be a compelling conductor, even if I don’t approve of some of his choices of friends.

  • What? Rome is not British, does not count! (still laughing at the joke with the LSO being the fourth best orchestra in the world…)

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