Slippedisc editorial: An unedifying episode in the march to equal rights

Slippedisc editorial: An unedifying episode in the march to equal rights


norman lebrecht

June 23, 2014

Five days ago, Slippedisc and other media outlets received the following email from a ‘concerned opera lover’  in Australia:

I’m not sure if you’re all aware that Opera Australia has employed the Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri to sing the role of Desdemona in the upcoming production of Otello in spite of the fact that she has publicly declared herself to be a homophobe. Paris Opera cancelled her contract based on the open letter she sent to the President of Georgia
There are many disgruntled staff at OA.
tamar iveri otello

Anonymous emails are not, on the whole, credible sources.

The link given in the email was over a year old and the Paris allegation could not be verified. The mailshot looked as if jealous individuals in a notably unhappy opera company were seeking to dislodge an unpopular, highly-paid foreign visitor.

Such things cannot be verified swiftly at distance.

An Australian website went public with the contents of the email and the resultant public outcry led to Ms Iveri’s dismissal – which had clearly been the intention of the anonymous mailer.

In view of the appalling nature of the views expressed on Ms Iveri’s website, that was the correct and inevitable outcome. However, the reasons Ms Iveri was targeted in Australia are neither transparent nor honourable.

This was not a principled campaign against prejudice but a petty turf war, fought behind cover of anonymity. Many in the opera world are left feeling squeamish – not by the ultimately justifiable dismissal of Ms Iveri but by the shadowy, xenophobic motives behind it.

Several have contacted us today to express unease at the ‘lynching’ of a fellow-artist. Altogether, this has been an unedifying episode in the march to gender parity and equal rights in the arts.



  • Guus Mostart says:

    This sounds like “damage control”.

  • Simon Hunt says:

    After reading Iveri’s poor excuses, documented lies and shocking PR strategy all weekend, I thought it would be a long time until I saw something less credible. But this article is it. You can’t attack anonymity in an article with completely unsourced claims about “many” in the opera world, unnamed people who’ve contacted you etc. Even Iveri faked credibility better than this.

    • sdReader says:

      Her managers could surely give her PR advice:

      * Zemsky/Green ( in New York
      * Opera et Concert ( in Paris

      Steps might include coming clean with all the facts, starting in May 2013, and explaining what she is now doing to educate herself.

      But it is hard to have sympathy.

  • Barry says:


  • Max McLean says:

    As an Australian opera lover whose Facebook feed exploded over the past few days with posts and updates, I know it is not accurate to reduce these events to a turf war. While there may well have been some with Machiavellian motivations, hundreds of Australians with no operatic career interests were mortified by the comments on Ms Iveri’s FB page, and subsequent rationalisations, and rightly so.

  • Sarah S says:

    Those comments that she or her husband posted are absolutely disgusting. They are degrading on every level imaginable.

    Thank you to the whistleblower.

    Would you be so diplomatic, Norman if her comments were anti-Semitic?

  • David Boxwell says:

    I’m puzzled why she doesn’t have her agents work with a PR firm to manage this crisis professionally. Have they left her out to dry? She’s on her own Facebook page trying to do damage control, which isn’t very effective.

  • Doug Pollard says:

    It sounds to me as if someone at Opera Australia was rightly appalled at her attitude and behaviour, but scared to go public in case they got fired. Given the way in which OA circled the wagons and tried to ride out the storm over the weekend, and the way they continue to remain silent over whether they plan to have her sing for them again, I’d say that was prudent self-protection from a management that wasn’t at all interested in airing, let alone tackling, the issue.

  • william osborne says:

    I agree that the reaction to her statements has been unedifying. Homophobia should be categorically condemned, but much of the response to her statements (or her husband’s) makes me think of the German word “Vernichtung” – the complete destruction of one’s enemies. This led to the term Vernichtungslager which means extermination camp. In this case,the reactions are rapidly moving toward devastating consequences out of proportion to the offence. Vernichtung could be the result.

    To put it in more American metaphorical terms, it’s as if the Internet is branding a scarlet letter on her forehead. Is that what we really want? After all of this pillorying, I hope three or four gay men (who fortunately aren’t so hard to find around opera houses) will take her by the arms and lead her onto the rehearsal stage in a gesture demonstrating what care and mutual respect really means.

    I also think of the recent discussion about how so many college speakers have been cancelled in the last few years because they held “offensive” views. When Vernichtung becomes our method, we can end up embracing intolerance as much as those promoting it. That’s why the IAWM and other leaders of the VPO protests never called for a boycott of the orchestra even though sexism and racism are just as bad as homophobia.

    In a way, I think no one captured how righteous indignation can be overdone better than Monty Python in this video clip. Words are one thing, Vernichtung is another:

    • Michael Endres says:

      Couldn’t agree more .
      Reading through some of the abusive responses on her FB page made me wonder about some of the people who pretend to fight for tolerance.
      Some of these remarks are not one iota better than the unacceptable original statement by Mrs Iveri.
      To destroy somebody’s career and livelihood can indeed amount to “Vernichtung” and from what I can see that is exactly what many want now .
      I find that mob culture as repulsive as her views.
      The Monty Python sketch is spot on and hair-raisingly close to reality , indicating how far we have ‘progressed’ since the 70ies or the times of Brian.

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        Bravo to both you and William Osborne.

      • sdReader says:

        But Vernichtung must be authored, and this is not.

        Each decision about her is independent. Opera Australia’s decision came effectively from Qantas and Mazda!

        And no one is entitled to a full international opera career. That is a privilege. She can always sing in Tbilisi and other centers where her views are tolerated. Or in oratorio. Perhaps settings of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom will suit her.

        In short, we have nothing to be ashamed of.

  • william osborne says:

    The Vernichtung was authored (or instigated) — as Norman explains in his above blog — and for reasons that probably had little to do with opposition to homophobia. And remember, we do not want Georgia and similar countries to be isolated and locked into backward ways of thinking. It is much better to integrate them into a more modern world so that all their citizens, such as homosexuals, can enjoy better lives.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Although I largely agree with your point Mr. Osborne, I must also agree with SDReader in that this Vernichtung was not really authored. Although somebody planted a “vernichtenden Same” (a seed of destruction if you will) how and what eventually grew out of that seed was outside of the scope of the initiator.
      In regards to your statement: “we do not want Georgia and similar countries to be isolated and locked into backward ways of thinking. It is much better to integrate them into a more modern world so that all their citizens, such as homosexuals, can enjoy better lives.” Given your background, you should know how quickly that sort of thinking can backfire and people end up ‘catching hell’.

      • Max Grimm says:

        Slight spelling correction
        * vernichtenden Samen

      • william osborne says:

        There’s a big difference between catching hell and extermination.

        • Max Grimm says:

          Indeed it is and I never claimed otherwise. I merely pointed out that in the past whenever one people tried to persuade another to see things in a different light, the result was rarely positive. I agree completely that we should live in a world where inclusion and understanding reign but, alas, as long as bringing about such change is left to us humans, it will be a very slow and tedious process that may never come to fruition.

  • william osborne says:

    There’s an interesting concept in SDReader’s comment that Vernichtung is something “authored,” that it must be created by a specific individual with the intention of extermination.
    Even though many of the posts placed on the singer’s FB page reveal a vernichtende mentality, and are authored by specific individuals with exactly that intention, it is the irrational and unguided collective movement that takes on its own life and feeds upon itself that becomes the true vernichtende force. Lynch mobs are a classic example.