‘Blasphemous’ opera: theatre chief sacked

‘Blasphemous’ opera: theatre chief sacked

Boris Mezdrich, above, has lost his job as director of the Siberian Novosibirsk State Opera and Ballet Theatre after staging a ‘blasphemous’ version of Richard Wagner’s 19th-century opera Tannhauser.

According to this report, he was dismissed from his post by Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky after Mezdrich came under fire from the conservative, increasingly influential Russian Orthodox Church.

A local Russian Orthodox cleric filed a lawsuit last month against Mezdrich and the director of the Tannhauser production, Timofei Kulyabin, accusing them of desecrating Christ’s image and offending believers.

Activists protested against the production, which portrayed the title character as a director making a film about Jesus visiting Venus’s erotic grotto.

Mezdrich’s dismissal was announced as thousands of people demonstrated outside the theatre in the center of Novosibirsk, saying the production was offensive to Christians and reflected the values of a decadent West.

One of the signs held by the protesters declared:

Orthodox Christianity is the foundation of the great Russian culture.

A scene from the 'blasphemous' opera

A scene from the ‘blasphemous’ opera

The protests reflected what liberals say is an oppressive atmosphere in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has portrayed his country as a bulwark against an immoral West and allowed the Russian Orthodox Church increasing sway over everyday life despite the legal separation of church and state.

A deputy chief of President Vladimir Putin’s administration, Magomedsalam Magomedov, said on March 30 that:

State theaters must stay away from performances that split Russian society.

As the controversy grew in recent weeks, many Russian cultural figures spoke out in defence of the theater’s interpretation of the opera, and a court in Novosibirsk cleared Mezdrich and Kulyabin on March 10, saying there was no evidence they violated the law.

Mezdrich had directed the theater since 2011, and also from 2001-08.

Medinsky replaced Mezdrich with Vladimir Kekhman, director of the Mikhailovsky Theater in St Petersburg, who said the Tannhauser production was a “blasphemy” produced by “militant atheists”.

Medinsky denied that the Kremlin was the enforcement arm of the Russian Orthodox Church. He made his displeasure over the opera clear, however, saying that the director had made a mistake by not warning the community about what was coming and then not reacting to the outcry.

You have to explain what kind of a production this is, that it’s a new interpretation. You have to talk to people. Instead, their position was approximately: ‘You foolish priests and your henchmen don’t understand anything about art’.

Kekhman said that he would remain director of both theatres and the Novosibirsk theater will be renamed the Bolshoi Theater of Siberia.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

17 responses to “‘Blasphemous’ opera: theatre chief sacked”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    Everywhere you look these days there are people who are only too eager to have their sensibilities ‘outraged’ by the merest hint of criticism of their superstitious beliefs. Well, good. Because it seems to me that there are more and more people out there who seem only too willing to do that criticising by turning the spotlight on just how ludicrous, pathetic and downright erroneous those beliefs are. Get used to it, you morons. The truth will out!

  2. 1859 says:

    You can almost yourself feel the religious noose tightening around the Russian peoples’ throats. And guess who’s pulling the rope tighter?

  3. barriejohn says:

    ‘You foolish priests and your henchmen don’t understand anything about art’.

    It’s always been the case!

  4. RussellW says:

    Dictators like Putin need a state ideology in order to govern, after the failure of Communism, Orthodox Christianity seems a very useful replacement.
    Remember all those naive Western commentators in the early 90s who predicted a liberal-democratic Russia-LOL

  5. L.Long says:

    For a dogmatic dictatorship there aint nothing like a theocracy to terrorize people and keep them under control, implement some form of sorry-ass law and control is complete. Its nice to see that xtians can learn fro their betters-the isLames, not that xtians haven’t had a lot of practice at it.

  6. Robster says:

    The dead bloke in the image is not dangling off the torture stick like that decaying Jesus is said to have done, apparently, how do they know it’s the magic jew?. These offended idiots are looking for things to whinge about.

  7. barriejohn says:

    RussellW: Nothing changes. The Russians got rid of the Tsar and ended up with people like Stalin and Putin; the Chinese deposed their emperors and wound up with Chariman Mao; the French and Americans broke with monarchical rule and installed presidents with a ridiculous amount of political power. It’s as if many people only feel safe when some autocrat is in position to tell them what to do – and religion helps there no end!

  8. Brian Jordan says:

    The priest and the KGB man – quite an un-holy alliance,

  9. Lurker111 says:

    I’m almost sorry Stalin didn’t finish off the EOC completely. Am I horrid for thinking so?

  10. barriejohn says:

    Lurker: As with Putin (does anyone seriously consider him a “man of faith”?), Stalin was happy to encourage religious and nationalistic fervour when he considered it in the Russian interest (after his newfound pal Adolf decided to invade the country). He also abolished political commissars in the army, and restored ranks and decorations, etc. People are so fucking gullible!

  11. Stuart H. says:

    Interesting that the Russian Orthodox mob claim this is the values of the decadent West, as I’ve noticed when they’re trying to get US evangelical groups off their patch (more precisely, income) they also claim Baptists have the values of the decadent West.
    On the other hand, if this was put on in North Carolina, I suppose it would be Franklin Graham’s mob outside complaining it had the values of decadent Communists.

  12. Larry says:


    You all need to read the book, WILLFUL BLINDNESS, by Margaret Heffernan!
    Its about Cognitive dissonance and she does a great job explaining it controls most people.

    From childhood we are indoctrinated by all means of things! Just think about it for a minute. The child in the womb is affected by what the mother eats or drinks! By her moods! By her health! And then once the child is delivered, it faces a world of bias. It gets to eat what its parents give it! It gets to hear their attitudes to other people! Subconsciously its beginning to form attitudes towards other people, even though its only a toddler.

    By the time the child has grown up, its attitude to people and things is formed and this becomes its Comfort zone. When it hears others challenging their beliefs, it goes into denial mode.

    As with Politics, Religion etc, there are people with agendas who want to control the minds of people and don’t like people to think for themselves.
    The comments on this blog are as negative as you would find on a fundamentalist religious blog.


  13. Cali Ron says:

    Religion has always been a powerful tool of tyrants throughout history. It’s a primary reason why many religions were created. Power and control. Putin is an asshole, but he’s certainly not a stupid one.

  14. Cali Ron says:

    What’s your point? I was indoctrinated to be a born again christian. I realized this fact and spent much time studying and learning to differentiate between fact and dogma. I no longer am a slave to superstition. The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feelings of discomfort that result from holding two conflicting beliefs. I no longer have conflicting beliefs so it doesn’t apply to me as concerns religion. How about you?

    “When it hears others challenging their beliefs, it goes into denial mode.” What belief of mine do you think someone challenged? Are you saying my lack of belief in god’s existence is denial. I can’t deny what has never been proven.

    “As with Politics, Religion etc, there are people with agendas who want to control the minds of people and don’t like people to think for themselves.” It’s called “Freethinker” because we freely think for ourselves. When you overcome the influence of people trying to control your mind about religion and think rationally the obvious end result is not believing in god. Trust me, at the time I was finding the truth there wasn’t anybody trying to persuade me to be atheist. In fact, it was all the opposite. Who do you think brainwashed me?

    What’s your belief? Why the anger? Let me guess, your religious and are offended by the comments on this blog that are negative towards religion. Ironically, you seem to be suffering from a serious case of cognitive dissonance yourself about atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, etc..

  15. barriejohn says:

    Larry: You seem to be a bit confused. Like Cali Ron, I was indoctrinated with fundamentalist Christian teaching when a child, and, as an intelligent (and gay) young man (science teacher to boot), had appalling problems trying to maintain my beliefs in the face of harsh reality. This led to a “nervous breakdown”, but eventually to release from the hell that had been my existence. Don’t talk to me about “cognitive dissonance”! I am almost ecstatically happy now to be free from that constant internal strife, and only wish that I could turn back the clock and regain all the lost opportunities, but that’s life. I may not have all the answers now, but at least I know what the questions are. I well recognize the enemies of progress and enlightenment, and will do all in my meagre power to expose, confront and ridicule them. It may not be much, but at least it’s something, and I think I’m on the winning side.

  16. RussellW says:

    “Larry: You seem to be a bit confused.”
    Agreed, particularly with his rather eccentric definition of ‘cognitive dissonance’.

    I was educated at a Presbyterian grammar school, I certainly wasn’t indoctrinated or brainwashed, however the dominant ideology was obviously and definitely Christian. I didn’t have a problem with cognitive dissonance since, as an adult, I can never remember being a believer, I just maintained a low profile and outwardly conformed.
    I’m convinced that there’s a significant percentage of the population who don’t have the ‘gene for religion’ and an increasing proportion of people in liberal democracies are ‘apatheist’ i.e. religion plays no part in their lives.It’s an encouraging trend.

  17. […] protests over the portrayal of religious symbols in an opera that led to the theatre director being fired by the Russian Culture Ministry.  Boris Mezdrich was accused of staging a “blasphemous” reworking of  Richard […]