Brian Wise covers the classical music business for WQXR, including aspects of performance, technology, philanthropy and institutional trends. He produces the Café Concerts series and the podcast/show Conducting Business. He manages the station's homepage and makes sure what you hear on air is what you see online. Follow him on Twitter at @Briancwise.
Soprano Fired From Opera Australia Over Anti-Gay Slurs
Monday, June 23, 2014 - 10:00 AM
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.