Opera Australia has announced that Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri won’t be performing in its upcoming production of Otello after controversy erupted over homophobic comments on her Facebook page.
The abusive comments, which described homosexuals as “deviants”, had been written as an open letter to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili following an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rally last year in the city of Tbilisi.
The post said Iveri was proud of how Georgian society “spat at the parade”, urging: “Please, stop vigorous attempts to bring West’s ‘fecal masses’ in the mentality of the people by means of propaganda”.
Although the post was later taken down, with Iveri claiming on the weekend that it had been written by her “very religious” husband, the damage was already done.
Reporting of the comments in Australian media last week prompted an outcry on Opera Australia’s Facebook page and a petition urging that her passport and visa to work in Australia be revoked “immediately and irrevocably”.
In a statement on its Facebook page today, Opera Australia said it had reached agreement with Iveri to immediately release her from her contract to perform Desdemona in the company’s production of Otello next month.
“Ms Iveri and her husband have both made public statements in the last 48 hours with regards to comments attributed to Ms Iveri,” it said. “Ms Iveri has unreservedly apologised for those comments and views.
“Opera Australia believes the views as stated to be unconscionable.”
The OA Facebook statement had attracted more than 1500 likes and 500 shares within three hours of posting.
Performer and activist Pauline Pantsdown, who has claimed credit for spearheading the Australian campaign to boycott Iveri, described the news as a victory for Georgian LGBT organisation Identoba and “all victims of hatred”.
Identoba published its own open letter to the singer on the weekend, in which it claimed she had only made a half-hearted apology and attempted to shift the blame onto her husband to save her career.
However, in an article on The Conversation this afternoon, writer and academic Dennis Altman questioned whether Opera Australia’s actions would actually help those facing violence and persecution in Georgia.
“One unintended consequence of Iveri’s contract now being cancelled is that it will reinforce the perception that “the West” is using homosexuality to wage a cultural war on those whose understandings of sexuality are very different; it might well increase homophobia in Georgia and make Iveri into a martyr for social conservatives.”
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