Last night was the first concert of Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra of their Berlioz cycle at the Barbican. In keeping with his recent appearances elsewhere Gergiev was greeted by protest in line with his refusal to make any statement in the past few months. About the dire situation in Russia for homosexual citizens or to use the exact phrasing of their law, individuals that spread ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors’. This has led to a reported increase in homophobic bullying and violence.
Peter Tatchell reportedly walked on stage last night and denounced VG as a supporter of President Putin before he was removed by security.
As much as I admire Tatchell’s record as a human rights campaigner I tend to disagree with any protest that disrupts the run of a concert. But his brand of direct action interventions is part of how he gets press attention to the causes he supports.
Tonight is the second concert of the series and I will be in the audience. Inspired by the protest at the Met Opera last month during the Onegin première, I will be wearing (not a NYC ribbon) a rainbow bow tie as a well-mannered protest to maestro Gergiev’s insistence to remain silent on this important matter. In light of his high-ranking position within the Mariinsky and his direct political involvement with Putin in Russia, he definitely has and should have a publicly expressed opinion. But he chose to follow the age old damage limitation tactic of staying silent until the storm passes.
It is up to us in the audience to signify that his behaviour is both poor and cowardly. If you are in the audience tonight and have something rainbow coloured bring it along. I have no appetite to disrupt the performance but also want to make a point, no matter how small or subtle. Of course another option for members of the audience would be to withhold applause.
Worth reading: David Nice’s piece on Gergiev on the Artsdesk website
Unfortunately it reads like something dragged out of the 1970s with a vibe of ‘My best friends are gay’. But at least it is a small bit of progress.