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Metropolitan Opera is focus of online petition decrying Putin

Metropolitan Opera is focus of online petition decrying Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking in Moscow in July. (Alexei Nikolsky / Associated Press)

The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" has been receiving considerable attention even before its official opening.

Deborah Warner, who had been slated to direct the opera, bowed out earlier this week due to health issues and has been replaced by her frequent collaborator Fiona Shaw.

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A potentially bigger headache for the company is a recent online petition protesting the production for employing two key creative personnel who have been sympathetic to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The petition, which was launched online last week, has been steadily gaining steam and so far has 1,400 signatures. Organizers of the petition have criticized the Metropolitan Opera for employing conductor Valery Gergiev and soperano Anna Netrebko, who both have been Putin supporters.

"Peter Illyich Tchaikowsky is the beloved composer most widely known to have been homosexual," the petition states.

"For America's leading opera house to open its season with one of his works, performed by a conductor and a leading soprano who support Putin's recent laws against homosexual people and those who support them dishonors the work of a great artist and his legacy as well as the progress made in our own country to secure equality for all citizens."

The petition is calling for the Metropolitan Opera to dedicate its Sept. 23 opening gala to gay, lesbian and transgendered people.

While Gergiev and Netrebko have supported Putin in the past, it remains unclear if they support the recent Russian law prohibiting efforts to promote gay rights.

The Metropolitan Opera hasn't issued any official response to the petition. The company is co-producing "Eugene Onegin" with the English National Opera. The production is scheduled to run in New York from Sept. 23 to Dec. 12.

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