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Protested Met Opera Gala Ends on Happy Note

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Metropolitan Opera has been surrounded by months of mounting tension as its opening production of Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin has become a vehicle for protest of Russia's anti-gay laws. Those tensions finally flared Monday in a colorful protest outside the theater and a brief disruption at the start of the opening night performance.

Gay New Jersey-based composer Andrew Rudin initiated the protest by creating an online petition six weeks ago that called for the Met to dedicate its opening night gala to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in response to a gay crackdown in Russia. The opera's Russian composer, Peter I. Tchaikovsky was a homosexual active in the 19th century. Two of the stars of the Met's current production are Russians who have significant political ties to Putin. By Monday night, the petition had garnered close to 10,000 signatures.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Rudin said he came away satisfied that both the Met and the protestors got what they wanted.

"Every single thing that mentions this Met opening mentions what happened there," Rudin said. "I especially loved the last line of [Anthony] Tommasini's review in the New York Times this morning: 'After the performance, the cast appeared on the outdoor balcony overlooking the plaza where the outdoor audience remained to applause. The protesters were gone. The issues they raised remain'."

Every concertgoer found a message from General Manager Peter Gelb folded inside the program. The message was a printout of his message published on Bloomberg over the weekend titled Why the Met Won't Bow to Protest of Anti-Gay Law, refusing the challenge thrown down by the petition. The note pointedly acknowledges that Tchaikovsky was gay and further states:

We stand against the significant human rights abuses that take place every day in many countries. But as an arts institution, the Met is not the appropriate vehicle for waging nightly battles against the social injustices of the world.

We respect the right of activists to picket our opening night and we realize that we've provided them with a platform to further raise awareness about serious human rights issues abroad.

"I don't know whether they thought they were being confrontational or if it was just brilliant," Rudin said, bursting into a laugh. "He managed to dedicate the opening night by saying why he wasn't dedicating the opening night!"

TheStreet was instrumental in raising awareness of the petition, publishing an interview with Rudin soon after the petition appeared and when it had gained only 200 signatures. In the following week, that number shot up to close to 2,000, attracting interest from other major news outlets around the world.

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