On October 10, members of Queer Nation NY, identified as “ a direct action group dedicated to ending discrimination, violence and repression against the LGBT community,” protested outside Carnegie Hall, where Valery Gergiev was about to lead the Mariinsky Orchestra in a program consisting of three Igor Stravinsky ballet scores. At issue were the silence of Mariinsky Music Director Gergiev, closely linked with Russian President Vladimir Putin, concerning the legal oppression of LGBT Russians, and the lack, to that point, of a statement from Carnegie Hall about the situation. Carnegie issued its statement before the concert concluded.
A notice on Queer Nation’s web site, www.queernationny.org, headed “Tell Carnegie Hall: Stand with LGBTQ Russians,” continues “Conductor Valery Gergiev, a longtime friend and supporter of president Vladimir Putin will appear at Carnegie Hall. Gergiev has refused to make any comment on Russia’s anti-LGBT laws. Carnegie Hall has refused a request to condemn the Russian government’s attack on LGBT Russians.”
The Queer Nation flyer, handed out at the protest, reads “Carnegie Hall has always participated in the world’s cultural, civic and political life. Why won’t Carnegie Hall oppose the Russian government’s attacks on LGBT Russians?” and goes on to enumerate historic events, concerning women’s suffrage, lynching, and the Civil Rights movement, that took place at the hall.
Carnegie Hall responds, “Although Carnegie Hall has been the site of numerous political events throughout its history, as an artistic institution, its primary mission is to feature performances by the world’s greatest artists and ensembles, including Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Carnegie Hall firmly opposes all instances of discrimination, including discrimination against the LGBT community; however these concerts, as musical events, are not the appropriate setting for political comments.”
Inside the auditorium, after Gergiev’s entrance, but before the music began, “Gergiev, your silence is killing Russian gays” and “Valery, your silence is killing Russian gays” were chants that came from men and either side of the balcony. Security quickly hurried to silence them.
Protests had also greeted the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera season, on September 23, when Gergiev conducted a new production of “Eugene Onegin,” by gay Russian composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.