Opera Australia is looking for a new star to sing Desdemona in Otello next month after parting ways with Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri because of homophobic comments she allegedly made on Facebook 12 months ago.
Opera Australia and the soprano announced the split yesterday following a concerted and growing social media campaign against her performing during Opera Australia’s winter season, which begins in Sydney on Thursday night.
In May last year, following a gay pride march in her home town of Tbilisi as part of an international day against homophobia, the soprano posted an open letter to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili describing homosexuals as “deviants” and saying she was proud when Georgian people spat on them.
“Please, stop vigorous attempts to bring West’s ‘fecal masses’ in the mentality of the people by means of propaganda,” she wrote in a post, which was removed when protests began to mount. Iveri subsequently apologised for the comments but protestors around the globe have continued to target opera companies engaging her for performances.
In the past week, hundreds of people posted the image below, protesting against Iveri, on Opera Australia’s Facebook page, as well as on Twitter, and the protest subsequently entered mainstream media.
On Saturday, the opera company was still backing the singer, saying it had made her aware of the Australian reaction and rehearsals and performances continued as planned, but yesterday, Opera Australia said she would not be appearing, saying they had reached an agreement to release her from her contract and that the comments she purportedly made were “unconscionable”.
The decision came after Iveri’s husband took to her Facebook page last week to take the blame for the 2013 comments, saying “She did not disclose the letter was written by me. She had endured and suffered a lot because of the letter which I wrote.”
Iveri, who performed in Australia in A Masked Ball in January 2013, also posted on Facebook saying she had “decided to withdraw from the cast”.
Her post continues:
“As difficult as it has been to come to this decision, I do so out out of consideration for the tranquillity of my colleagues and for the success of the production,” she wrote.
By withdrawing, I wish to insure (sic) that the performances take place undisturbed by any further controversy.. I do not want such an important artistic event to be marred by any problem which, however unintentionally, has developed because of my presence in the cast.
I also must say that I am immensely saddened and hurt by the campaign which is now being mounted against me.
I have never been prejudiced against anyone, whether for religious, or racial reasons, or for any other kind of prejudice including those regarding sexual preference. I abhor prejudice in any form altogether.
I have been performing in an art form that includes thousands of gay people on both sides of the stage, and there is no one who can come forward and claim that I have ever exhibited any such prejudice against them. I have said before and say here again that the words attributed to me were not my own, and that I therefore cannot take personal responsibility for them. I can only repeat again and again that this is my position.”
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