A concert Monday night in San Francisco by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic was interrupted by a gay rights activist condemning conductor Yuri Temirkanov for his ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
An amateur video taken at the performance shows one protester shouting at Temirkanov as the Russian conductor signaled the start of Overture to The Barber of Seville, prompting boos and some scattered applause from other audience members. A small group of protesters also greeted patrons outside Davies Symphony Hall, according to published reports.
The St. Petersburg Philharmonic’s American management company, Opus 3 Artists, did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Monday night’s protest was the first such incident reported on the orchestra’s 19-stop tour of the U.S. and Mexico, which ends on Sunday.
The lone in-house protester, seated in the terrace section of the auditorium, shouted, "Yuri, you're a sexist Putinist! Tell Putin to Free Pussy Riot now!" Wearing a day-glo knit ski-mask evocative of the Russian punk band, she was escorted out of the hall by an usher and the concert began shortly thereafter.
A group called Gays without Borders organized the protest, which had been widely publicized beforehand.
The incident echoed similar recent protests against Valery Gergiev, another Russian maestro with personal ties to Putin. The protesters on Monday night claim that Temirkanov threw his support behind the president’s election bid in 2012; the two men were seen together at a 75th birthday event for the conductor in December.
Temirkanov has also received negative attention for disparaging remarks about women conductors. In comments reported last year by New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, Temirkanov told an interviewer that “the essence of the conductor’s profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness.”
Despite the ensuing furor, the conductor’s American concerts have drawn widespread praise, with Washington Post music critic Anne Midgette recently calling the Philharmonic “a Russian national treasure” and Temirkanov "one of the best in the world."