Soprano Fired From Opera Australia Over Anti-Gay Slurs

Monday, June 23, 2014 - 10:00 AM

Tamar Iveri, soprano Tamar Iveri, soprano (Iveri's official Facebook page)

Updated 6/24

The Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri has been released from her contract with Opera Australia after an anti-gay rant on her Facebook page provoked an angry backlash on social media and an online petition that drew more than 4,600 signatures. The singer was due to sing Desdemona in Otello from from July 5 to August 2.

The now-deleted Facebook post from May 2013, in the form of a letter to the Georgian President, described the gay rights movement as "the West's 'fecal masses,'" or "sewage." The letter praised perpetrators of attacks at a gay rights parade in Tbilisi as "Georgian youth of pure blood."

"I was quite proud of the fact how Georgian society spat at the parade," the letter attributed to Iveri read. "Often, in certain cases, it is necessary to break jaws in order to be appreciated as a nation in the future, and to be taken into account seriously."

Iveri took to Facebook on Friday to blame her husband for using her account to write the original post, describing him as "a very religious man with a tough attitude towards gay people."

But that was too little, too late. In a statement issued Monday, the Sydney-based Opera Australia said the original post was "unconscionable" and the soprano would not be performing with the company. A spokesman told Australian media that it plans to announce a replacement Desdemona shortly.

In addition, La Monnaie theater in Brussels said Tuesday that it was dropping Iveri from its production of Un ballo in maschera in May 2015. "I wish to stay loyal to my very intimate conviction that we cannot tolerate intolerance, of whatever kind," said the theater's general director Peter de Caluwe in a statement.

Iveri has been an emerging name among international opera houses in recent years, appearing at the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Vienna State Opera, Munich Opera and La Scala. She is due to sing the title role in Tosca at the Melbourne Opera in November.

The singer on Monday released a further statement on her Facebook page, stating that she is "immensely saddened and hurt by the campaign which is now being mounted against me." She added that she has "never been prejudiced against anyone, whether for religious, or racial reasons, or for any other kind of prejudice including those regarding sexual preference."

The backlash against Iveri began last week when the remarks were published on the Australian classical music website Limelight. Opera Australia's Facebook page has had more than 1000 posts on the issue, with many people threatening to boycott the company and others suggesting they would cancel their subscriptions.


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Comments [21]

njbill from nj

She had every right to post what she did, but freedom of speech only applies to the government, not to private speech and the reactions to it. She had every right to write what she did, and those who spoke out against it had every right to do what they did. These discussions come up all the time, and Karajan and Schwartzkopf were cleared by the allies after the war. Yes, there have been vile composers and musicians, Wagner comes to mind, but we live in a different world, one that doesn't allow casual bigotry and stupidity as readily as it could. She can claim it was her husband, and her excuse that he is religious is complete BS, Christ never said it was okay to do what she or he did.

Not to mention that the opera companies as their employers have to worry about the consequences, fortunately they are supported by people who are not like the thugs who run and inhabit Russia these days, in many ways the Russians are turning their society into something like Nazi Germany, the few Jews who live there have a miserable time and thanks to the 'wonderful' Russian Orthodox Church, Gays who have won so much in the west are the Russian's equivalent of the Jews under Nazi Germany, and it is sickening. For all their talk of high culture, most of Russia is a brutal place these days, the land that gave us Stalin now gives us Putin, no real difference.

Jun. 28 2014 07:48 PM

Is there any way of verifying that her husband posted the remarks? Has he taken responsibility? Did she delete them as soon as she became aware of them?
Francisco of California has a point: "Elizabeth Schwartzkopf and Herbert von Karajan were Nazis; nobody cancelled their concerts." We must defend the speech we detest. A beautiful singer is a unique instrument. Would you smash it? However, people ARE free to vote with their pocketbooks on whether they want to listen to her perform, whether she said it or not, and opera houses have a bottom line they must look to… so it comes down to: How were the contracts worded? Did they have the RIGHT to cancel a signed contract on her because of what she (allegedly/or her husband) wrote on Facebook? That seems a bit odd.

Jun. 28 2014 06:40 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Mr.Salomone, comments are true. Unfortunately, some artists who are bigoted and racist are capable of beautiful art and music. We need these things in our lives because of all the ugliness and tawdriness that surrounds us. Those comments she made were ugly and she should have known better than to add to the ugliness.

Jun. 25 2014 02:47 PM

Ann - When was the last time you were arrested or denied equal treatment under the law for being a heterosexual woman (assuming that's what you are)? That's why there are parades - to let people know there is no shame in having intimate relations with someone of the same gender and let people know they are not alone in their feelings. What I do with my partner behind closed doors in nobody's business, but how we're treated by the law, our government, our country and its citizens is everybody's business! When you are a public figure you have a responsibility to be held accountable for your words and actions! People who may look up to her may be influenced by her opinion which is why it matters!

Jun. 25 2014 02:42 PM
Tom Salomone from New Jersey

There aren't words to describe how ignorant and despicable are the comments of Iveri and, allegedly, of her husband. To distinguish her homophobic and nationalist rant from something a Nazi would say would be impossible. I feel that every opera house in the world, if approached by Iveri's agent concerning her singing at their venue should treat it as if they had been approached by an agent for Hermann Goering or Heinrich Himmler. And, of course, they should not seek her out.
One should not be soft on nor play footsie with fascism, as bourgeois society and culture have so often been wont to do.

Jun. 25 2014 01:26 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Claudel, Funny letter if we are allowed to find it amusing. A statue would be erected in her honor and a coin minted.

Jun. 25 2014 09:59 AM
francisco from California

Elizabeth Schwartzkopf and Herbert von Karajan were Nazis; nobody cancelled their concerts. Being a Nazi is O.K.? Being hateful is not free speech? According to whose definition of free speech? Obama was against gay marriage, now he demands it.

Jun. 25 2014 03:33 AM

Tamar Iveri and her husband have been very foolish. In this brave new world, where the commissars of self-righteous hate-seeking will before long turn their witch hunts into the Soviet-style imprisonment and actual physical torture they have long wished to bring to these shores, the truly sensible thing for the soprano to do would have been to blame her husband's poor English for getting the object of her comments muddled.

That is, she should have said that the people her comments were actually directed at were white heterosexuals, especially Christians! Her performance fees would have doubled overnight, Fred Plotkin and Brian Wise would be love-bombing her here at the QXR site, and next week would see the PBS announcement that she is to be the subject of the next twenty-hour Ken Burns fantasy-documentary, with Chelsea Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Ruth Bader-Ginsberg having a cat fight over who'll get to do the voice-over for Holy Diversity's newest heroine.

But it's not to be, is it? Oy, how unevolved these goyim are. Let's give them and their country a color-coded revolution or two to show them how the world's really cool and hip trendsetters deal with naïfs who think that freedom of thought and expression applies to them, too.

Jun. 24 2014 04:21 PM
Jock Stender from Charleston, SC

Tamar Iveri is as crude toward gays as Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev are shills for what Time magazine now calls Russia's "new tyrant," Vladimir Putin.

All three have "interesting" personalities but no character.

Would Iveri stoop to sing roles written by great gay composers of opera -- Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Poulenc, Bernstein, Britten, Copland, Barber, or Menotti?

Kathleen Battle all over again.

-- Jock Stender, Charleston, SC

Jun. 24 2014 02:34 AM
Doug Bradford Smith from New York City

If Madame Iveri is not able to prevent her husband from posting these despicable remarks,(if that is really the case), then she is essentially siding with him. I think she deserves the backlash she is receiving. I hope her husband has a successful career, because I would say hers is over unless she leaves him and finds some way to redeem herself. Perhaps campaigning for Gay rights in Georgia and Russia would be an appropriate move for her.

Jun. 24 2014 01:03 AM

My understanding (not 100% sure) is that Brussels 'released her' before Opera Australia did (re: She is due to sing the title role in Tosca at the Melbourne Opera in November, and to perform in Un ballo in maschera at La Monaie in Brussels in May 2015). My understanding is that Paris Opera has done the same.

Jun. 23 2014 05:01 PM
Michael Hudson-Medina from Los Angeles

Her international management is and they have not done their job in handling this crisis. I repeatedly made attempts to get a reply from Mr. Zemsky or Mr. Green for which they have not responded. For savvy New York artist management, I find there could have been better ways to handle this.

Jun. 23 2014 04:44 PM
Karen A. Thumm from Ottawa, Illinois

Well, if her husband did post it, he is a nut job ! but then she must be also to be married to him....

Jun. 23 2014 04:30 PM

Ann from Sarasota writes:"when people chose [sic] to put their laundry out there, they are subject to free speech comments in the free world." Really, Ann? Are they also subject to having their jaws broken, as Tamar Iveri suggests? Nobody is denying this hateful woman her free speech rights; her despicable comments remained on her Facebook page for a year for all the world to see. Opera Australia is simply exercising their right not to be associated with hate, bigotry, and incitements to violence, as I hope every other opera house will. It's hard to imagine that any thoughtful person who actually read her vicious comments could think this was simply a matter of "free speech."

Jun. 23 2014 04:29 PM
Stuart from Sydney

Having read the comments attributed to her, and heard the singer in question, as well as knowing people in the cast she was singing in, this was the best thing that could happen.

At best, she is a liar, who tried to cover her butt rather badly and got caught out by the fact that things said on line are there forever.

If, what she said originally is her honest belief, then she will have big problems working in the arts anywhere outside the former eastern bloc countries.

And finally, I have never seen such vitriol aimed at someone, purely because of who they are attracted to. This was a stream of pure venom and it left me upset, even knowing that I was never likely to meet the woman..

Jun. 23 2014 04:14 PM
Frederick from Los Angeles

How can someone claim to be super religious and harbor such hate. Her husband is a .....

Jun. 23 2014 04:04 PM
David from St Albans, VT

Ann from Sarasota said:

" Taking a person's right to free speech away by bullying them out of a career is not right either"...

Fair point. However, since the Supreme Court has established that money = speech, then persons who are disgusted by the comments made can use their rights of free speech by not subsidizing an arts organization that will use its own money to hire people with such disgusting opinions. These arts organizations will learn, FAST, that money talks and bigotry walks.

Jun. 23 2014 03:29 PM
Maria D

Even though it may not sound very believable at first, I'm sure that it's true that it was her husband who posted that letter on her page without her consent. What kind of an "emerging name among international opera houses" would ever advertise such views? As an example, Russian international athletes like Ovechkin have been very carefully avoiding voicing their views on these issues because they're perfectly aware that if they voice pro-LGBT views they'll get in trouble with their Russian fans and government, and if they openly support their government's awful anti-gay laws, they'll jeopordize their international career. I don't know anything about this soprano, but I'm sure she's not that dumb.

Jun. 23 2014 02:46 PM
Doreen from NYC

It's her talent that counts and it doesn't matter what her personal opinions are.

Jun. 23 2014 02:35 PM
Ann from Sarasota, fl

If who people chose to love or have sexual relations with is no ones business then why have parades about it? What goes on behind closed doors should stay behind closed doors except, as you say, anything involving minor children. But when people chose to put their laundry out there, they are subject to free speech comments in the free world. Taking a person's right to free speech away by bullying them out of a career is not right either, THAT is Facist political correctness we seem to be forced into a lot these days.

Jun. 23 2014 02:23 PM
arden broecking from Connecticut

I'm sorry that Tamar Iveri has probably blown her career right out of the water. Her remarks were inappropriate and extreme. Adults have a right to live the way they want to, love who they want to, and be themselves, gay straight, it is none of anyone's business. (The exception being the damaging of children)
We ought never to judge a colleague's private life. If he or she can do
what they are asked to do, no one should care, or speculate, about them as anything but artists, and appreciate (and love) them as such."
Back to Mme Iveri, she was very unwise. She was more than unwise to reflect her husband's views. (The choice of language alone was disgraceful, not to say vulgar.) Even if she were to agree with him, she should have known that in this day and age, her words would create a firestorm, or referring back to my original
watery image, a tsunami.
Political correctness can sometimes be carried to silly extremes, we all know that. But this was just about the ugliest I've ever read.

Jun. 23 2014 12:46 PM

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