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Petition Pits Opera World Against Putin Over Gay Rights

In February, both stars performed at the opening of the Marinsky II, a new $700 million opera house in Russia. Gergiev, director of the Marinsky Theater, said in a statement online that with the new additional theater "it will be possible to stage the most contemporary works and innovative productions, productions of which we could not even have dreamed before." Putin was in the audience at the opening for that theater. It is safe to assume it could not have been built without his support.

Rudin calls Gergiev and Netrebko's support for Putin "a devil's bargain."

"A couple years ago they began to champion him and speak in favor of his government," Rudin said. But in recent months, Putin has spearheaded new laws that allow the detention of tourists and citizens thought to be gay or seen to be promoting gay rights.

"I can't imagine they thought this crackdown would come about. They work constantly with gay people," Rudin said. "And yet now, as a result of Putin's policies to even speak in support of gay people is to risk fine and even detention. So now they're in a terrible bind," he said of Gergiev and Netrebko.

To speak out on the issue risks arrest and possible ramifications for the stars' careers in their home country. To not speak out risks alienating the broader opera industry, which is global by nature. Performers hail from all over the world and the typical career lands them on stages in Europe, Russia, Japan and South America as a matter of course.

Part of the goal of the petition is to bring the issue to light and to show not only the Met but also the Russian stars that this issue has global significance and is more important than their home-country political ties or career concerns.

"We need to know where you stand on these things, you're in our country now," he said.

Rudin is an active composer, a resident of Allentown, N.J., and a former faculty member at Juilliard School's graduate program in New York and of the University for the Arts in Philadelphia, retiring in 2001. He is also a longtime subscriber to the operatic seasons at the Met and remembers taking busloads of students to landmark performances.

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