Granted, the Met petition is only one small piece of the uproar caused by Russia's antigay policies. As I pointed out in my initial article, more pressure will likely come from athletes and sponsors of the Winter Olympics, to be held in February in Sochi, Russia. (The Russians' latest assurances, announced Thursday, that the "gay propaganda" law will not affect visiting athletes are being touted by the International Olympic Committee, but are being dismissed or eyed with skepticism pretty much everywhere else.)
But the Met is a powerful symbol, representing international relationships in a way that few cultural institutions other than the Olympics can. The repertoire, the cast, the support, the entire economic model of the big-league opera world, of which the Met is the acknowledged center, is dependent on international cooperation and respect.
In that light, the Met's claim of political neutrality rings hollow. We live in a political world and, regardless of profession, we sometimes need to take a political stand as a result.
On the other side, some voices have claimed protest can do no good, since it would either be ignored or play into Putin's domestic political hand, making him appear a strong leader standing up to Western decadence. To my ear, those arguments also sound like apologies for doing nothing when doing
would be definitely better. Russian society is not immune to international pressure.
Peter Gelb, artistic director of the Met, is quoted at the end of the
New York Times
article as saying that the petition's supporters are "barking up the wrong tree" by targeting the opera house.
"The Met has been a champion of L.G.B.T. art," he said.
True enough. The petition focuses on the Met in some respect
of its longstanding embrace of the LGBT community. But right now that commitment, and its commitment to the opera world as a whole, needs defending.
-- Written by Carlton Wilkinson