The Metropolitan Opera has sent a statement in response to an online petition criticizing the New York company for its upcoming production of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin."
Organizers of the petition object to the Met's employment of two key creative personnel -- conductor Valery Gergiev and soprano Anna Netrebko -- who in the past have supported controversial Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The petition specifically cites Putin's recent laws cracking down on gays in Russia, and is calling for the Metropolitan Opera to dedicate its season-opening gala performance in September to the gay community.
"Eugene Onegin" will be a new co-production with the English National Opera and is being directed by actress Fiona Shaw. The production is scheduled to run in New York from Sept. 23 to Dec. 12.
Here's the Metropolitan Opera's full statement:
"The Met is proud of its history as a creative base for LGBT singers, conductors, directors, designers, and choreographers. We also stand behind all of our artists, regardless of whether or not they wish to publicly express their personal political opinions. As an institution, the Met deplores the suppression of equal rights here or abroad. But since our mission is artistic, it is not appropriate for our performances to be used by us for political purposes, no matter how noble or right the cause."