Russia honours anti-opera campaigner

Russia honours anti-opera campaigner


norman lebrecht

June 04, 2019

Alexander Novopashin, abbot of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Novosibirsk who led a public outcry against a Tannhäuser production, has received an award ‘for counteracting extremism’ from Russia’s federal Anti-Extremism Centre.

The abbot’s agitation led to the dismissal of the Novosibirsk opera chief and the banning of Tannhäuser in Siberia.



  • Caravaggio says:

    Germany ought to look into something similar: “Minister für die Bekämpfung des Extremismus in der Oper” which would then unleash its forces where the Regie rot festers in opera houses everywhere, particularly Munich and Berlin. They have their work cut out.

  • Andrew says:

    He’s not an “anti-Opera” campaigner but an anti-blasphemy one. Some things are more important than showbiz.

  • Ned Keene says:

    A shameful decision. Worth noting that Abbot Novopashin never even *saw* the production of Tannhauser, nor even went to the theatre. He claimed ‘he had seen how the sacriligious performance would look – in a holy vision which was revealed to him”.

    This abbot should have been defrocked – like Vsevolod Chaplin, the Moscow cleric who was dismissed after a series of abuses. In addition to picketing opera productions (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Chaplin funded the loonytunes of Bozhya Volya* (‘God’s Will’) who destroyed an exhibition about evolution at the Darwin Museum; destroyed displays in the Museum of the Soviet Gulag, claiming that the Gulag had been a fine and holy thing; went through an exhibition of modern art at the State Pushkin Museum and broke items using hammers; and harangued diners in Moscow restaurants for daring to eat meat during Lent. Chaplin lost his post, and was – I believe – defrocked.

    * led by “Dmitry Enteo” (real name:Tsorionov)- a religious extremist who was later jailed under anti-extremist legislation. Tsorionov was excommunicated by the Russian Church after his release from prison.

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      RE: “…claiming that the Gulag had been a fine and holy thing…”

      Hungarian Gulag can be very tasty; the trick to it is to use lots of paprika.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    The great heldentenor Jon Vickers was a devout Christian; he refused to perform as Tannhauser altogether, saying that the opera itself was blasphemous.

    • Clarrieu says:

      But he didn’t prevent others to see it if they wanted to, did he?

    • Stuart says:

      I was studying in London the year he accepted a production of Tannhauser in 1977 and then backed out – he sang Otello instead. Word at the time was that the cancellation had less to do with the “blasphemous” aspects of Tannhauser, but that Vickers simply couldn’t sing the role. I am sure the truth lies somewhere in-between. What Vickers wrote at the time was: “It is with profound regret that I must inform you that I wish to withdraw from the revival of ‘Tännhauser.’ This decision has not been made easily, any more than was the decision to accept the offer in the first place. As you know, it has always been essential for me to have a point of personal contact with the personality of each role I portray so that by my identification with the role I can bring the characters to life on stage. I failed completely to find any point from which to begin. I am therefore convinced of the impossibility for me to interpret ‘Tännhauser.’ This decision, I know, is late in arriving, due to the prolonged, intensive study and enormous effort on my part to come to grips with this work. “I apologize for the difficulties that this will cause you, but thank you for your cooperation and understanding.” Vickers cancelling Tannhauser also meant that I would not get a chance to hear Hermann Prey live in an opera.

      • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

        How interesting! Now that I think of it, the tessitura of Tannhauser is high for him; his Wagner roles were mostly lower– Siegmund, not Siegfried, and Tristan, not Walther. The exception is Parsifal, which he did quite well.

        You can see Hermann Prey doing Wagner. Unlike awful Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and even-worse Walter Berry, Prey knew the limits of his voice, he wisely eschewed big loud blow-hards like Amfortas and the Dutchman, and stuck to the lighter Wagner roles, Wolfram and Beckmesser. Here, enjoy:

  • Ms.Melody says:

    I wonder how many here have seen the production.
    Well, I have. All miserable 3 hours and 10 minutes of it.
    I felt it behooved me to know what I am talking about before I liked or hated something.
    Having seen it, I agree, it should have never seen the light of day, but not because it is blasphemous or offensive to any religious group, but because it is garbage. The offensive poster is barely visible, so really not worth the space . The production values are zero and even glorious music and some very competent singing do not save it. The version on you-tube is from 2014, so it is pointless to give a musical review today. Visually, it is ugly. This is regie trash at its worst. Once again, the “concept” does not serve the music or the text, but the story and the music are perverted and mauled to suit “the concept”. It begins with an overweight, slovenly,dressed in a T-shirt that has “Censored” printed on it, well past middle age( Stig Andersen was 64 at the time and well past his prime) movie director having trouble with his film. In comes the filming crew and to the glorious ouverture we have them going around the stage, setting up. Next come the extras from Venusberg,mostly naked, but this is appropriate ,someone looking suspiciously like JC and finally, Venus. The JC also sings, must be Tanhauser.
    The director is miming the whole time and has not uttered a sound. JC(Tanhauser )and Venus sing the duet, which is interrupted 3 times by retakes and make-up fixes, how they kept up with the music is a miracle. Venus behaves more like repentant Mary Magdalene, but eventually JC(Tanhauser) breaks free.
    Next scene-surprise, our movie director has a voice, he will be Tanhauser! He is joined by his former friends the Minnesingers who look like they would stampede into Venusberg rather than condemn it.
    Next we meet Elisabeth, a middle aged matron wearing a blue business suit and sensible low heeled shoes.
    How or why they made beautiful, young, honey-voiced Irina Churilova appear so frumpy is another mystery of this masterpiece. Never mind, she sings like an angel.
    The opera is too long to review in detail here, so just the highlights: Elisabeth and Tanhauser do meet at the end, she hugs him, kisses him,admonishes him, he does not know her.Wolfram sings his beautiful “O du mein holder Abernstern” while covering Tanhauser with a blanket and patting his thigh. During Tanhauser’s passionate account of his pilgrimage to Rome Wolfram is taking copious notes, probably for his next book? The opera ends with Tanhauser being escorted off stage and Wolfram being awarded a prize(like Eurovision) The entire point of redemption through love is lost. This is why I think this opus is utterly worthless and should not be done again

    • John Rook says:

      Interesting. Sounds utterly dreadful. In any case, there was a similar case in Düsseldorf in 2013 where a production of…Tannhäuser was abandoned after the premiere for being – and I paraphrase various published articles by professional critics – a pile of pointlessly provocative shit. If anyone should be branded anti-opera it’s these talentless Shock Jocks who piggy-back the medium to get famous at any cost.