Petition Pits Opera World Against Putin Over Gay Rights

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent spate of anti-gay laws and policies has angered many throughout the world and created awkward work environments in theaters through Europe and here in New York City. One U.S. composer is trying to draw some attention to the situation.

On Sept. 23, the Metropolitan Opera will premiere a new production of 19th century Eugene Onegin, by a Russian who also happens to be one of the most famous homosexual composers in history, Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky.

Conducting that performance from the Met's orchestra pit and starring in it onstage will be two Russians, both Putin supporters and stars of the classical world: Valery Gergiev and soprano Anna Netrebko. Neither of them has spoken publicly on the issue of Putin's gay crackdown, despite the fact that they work elbow to elbow with openly gay people from many different countries, on stages all over the world.

U.S. composer and retired professor Andrew Rudin, in a phone interview, notes that Tchaikovsky suffered from the repressive attitudes of 19th century Russia. An acknowledgement of that struggle, and the fight for gay rights generally, is necessary as the Met uses this work and these Russian musicians in its season opener, Rudin said. Anything less dishonors Tchaikovsky's memory and the struggles for gay rights around the globe.

"They are about to present a work ironically of the most famous homosexual in all of music," Rudin said. "The Metropolitan Opera is pretending none of this is happening. So far their attitude is to not say anything. To pretend this is all going to blow over."

Rudin has established an online petition calling on the Met to dedicate the opening gala to support the LGBT community. The petition is not yet two days old and has over 200 signatures.

"And they're coming in from all over," Rudin said. "From Australia, Thailand, Arkansas -- it's really pretty amazing how these things splay out from a Facebook post."

Netrebko and Gergiev are caught in an awful position, Rudin says.

"Here's the curious dilemma," he said. "You can easily find pictures of Gergiev of posing with Putin and Netrebko hugging Putin. It bolsters Putin's reputation to be seen with them and it helps them and helps their careers."