News

Don’t offend the men in frocks & silly hats

Don’t offend the men in frocks & silly hats

Russian theatre directors are being ordered to exercise greater ‘taste, common sense and responsibility’ and avoid offending the sensitivities of faith-heads.

Ominous threats, according to the Washington Post, are increasingly being directed at artists considered to be:

In violation of an unspoken moral code of the Russian regime, which seems to be taking cues from the Orthodox church.

In the past few weeks, Russian Orthodox Church leaders in Novosibirsk organised 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 Wagner’s Tannhäuser.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Novosibirsk – Metropolitan Tikhon, pictured above, centre – had not even seen the production when he began to complain about it in January. He filed a court case against the director and theatre officials for violating a 2013 law that makes insulting religious feelings a criminal offence. He lost but told his followers to protest the theatre last month. And they did. In their droves.

Several thousand people carry patriotic flags as they demonstrate against the production of Wagner's Tannhäuser in downtown Novosibirsk. (Ilnar Salakhiev/AP)

Several thousand people carry patriotic flags as they demonstrate against the production of Wagner’s Tannhäuser in downtown Novosibirsk. (Ilnar Salakhiev/AP)

Said Vakhtang Kipshidze, a spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church said that the actors had:

Appeared naked, simulated sex, and even touched Christ. This is something we cannot tolerate, because it is against our conscience.

He said the opera directors should have discussed the staging with the church first to avoid the row that ensued. He added:

Of course it would be a very stupid thing to expect artists never to do anything shocking. You have freedom of self-expression, you are free artists. But we are also a religious community. We have our religious freedom and we deserve to be respected.

Meanwhile, a Russian arts council began examining ways to prevent and punish “distortions” of classic plays, and Kremlin officials proposed introducing a preliminary review process for theatrical productions — effectively, a Soviet-style censoring board.

Urging greater “taste, common sense and responsibility”, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said performance directors and artists should:

Show respect for the audience, the public, to the city.

That includes censoring one’s output from within.

But the artistic community in Russia sees it as a blatant attempt at social control.

Said Marina Davidova, a well-known arts critic in Russia.

What is happening is a total conservative revolution. We have a ministry of culture that works against culture, against art and against the entire cultural community.

Since the opera row, theatre directors and their supporters have called for Medinsky to be fired, for Mezdrich to be reinstated, and for the church in Novosibirsk to back off from actions:

Which can lead to religious extremism.

But as the war of words and street protests continues, other attempts to muzzle the country’s most experimental theatrical minds are progressing.

Several of the country’s best-known directors are being scrutinised for their modernised productions of classic Russian plays, such as Alexander Pushkin’s Boris Godunov and Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls.

Members of the Russian Heritage Institute’s review board – which is exploring ways to limit the interpretations of Russian classics – recently told state news service Tass that many of the productions were “distortions” and even “trash”.

Putin’s spokesman has articulated the Kremlin’s opposition to any forms of censorship, but he also maintained that the government should not have to fund projects that aren’t “appropriate”.

The dependency of theatres on Russian state funding makes them a prime target for restriction.

25 responses to “Don’t offend the men in frocks & silly hats”

  1. Broga says:

    This is the usual religious approach to free speech: “You can say anything you want as long as you only say what I want you to say.”

  2. RussellW says:

    Communism has failed as a state ideology, so why not try Orthodox Christianity? After all, it worked successfully for 1200 years, the Church will stifle dissent, and the new Tsar will protect the Church, it’s a marriage made in Heaven.

  3. L.Long says:

    I think there is something wrong with males with ugly beards, funny hats, and wear dresses, they are all so sensitive about nothing. These idiots, the isLame, fundy Jews, Popes, really odd dudes.

  4. John the Drunkard says:

    Well…as an opera singer, I can tell you that there has been decades of ridiculous and stupid stage direction in the opera world. Known as ‘regiestheatre’ in German. This is a style that regards the actual work performed as an empty vessel into which the stage director pours whatever deepity HE wishes.

    ‘Straight’ theater directors, even the most deranged, are NEVER given such a free hand. I’ve seen a ‘Flying Dutchman where the director insisted that Eric STAB Senta at the end, with no possible connection to the actual text or music. The man singing Eric pretended to go along until the director left town before opening…he never followed the direction.

  5. Maggie says:

    Is there anything less frail than a religion or its followers? Not even the gossamer wings of a mayfly are so fragile.

  6. Me says:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32272604
    More sinister overdressed werewolves here…..disturbing images indeed as the captions indicate.

  7. Newspaniard says:

    It looks like the Russian Orthodox Church are taking lessons from their muslim fundie friends. Didn’t we dispose of the Royal Chamberlain’s office some decades ago? Maybe Putin is thinking that an axe would silence all “traitors” who disagree with him. I’m sure he has some mates from his old days in the KGB who could make some of these directors “disappear” or die horribly from polonium poisoning (again).

  8. Barry Duke says:

    Newspaniard, polonium is SO old hat. This is how they punish people now: http://tinyurl.com/pqe8vas

  9. Newspaniard says:

    @Barry Duke. I shall have nightmares for a week now. Bring back polonium!

  10. lucy 1 says:

    ‘Appeared naked, simulated sex, and even touched Christ. This is something we cannot tolerate, because it is against our conscience.’

    If it is against your conscience, don’t do it, you fucking idiots. Just leave other people alone. Oh no, that’s right, that is exactly what they won’t do.

  11. Broga says:

    OT: The interview by John Humphreys this morning with a batty RC priest was a delight. The priest has decided that another RC priest who died on the Titanic is a saint currently spending time in heaven. His “evidence” amounts to, “What we need is a miracle.” Humphreys replied that we all need miracles.

    The priest is waiting for a patient with an incurable illness to pray to the Titantic priest. The patient then recovers and that is evidence of the miracle. The priest is in touch with the Vatican to request sainthood. Humphreys commented that it sounded like hocus pocus. There was fun to be had listening to this. If you missed this one you missed a treat.

    A serious question is how this nonsense comes to feature on a serious, mainly political, programme with its chief interviewer, John Humphreys.

  12. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    ” We have our religious freedom and we deserve to be respected.”

    Why?

  13. Ex Patriot says:

    If these idiots are going to run around in funny hats and dresses they deserve to be made fun of and they certainly do not deserve any respect. No religion deserves any respect, because of what they are, Evil

  14. Stuart H. says:

    Those beards look so false it reminds of the stoning scene in ‘Life of Brian’.
    Can we really be sure they’re not women ?

  15. dennis says:

    yes, “con” science is really against my conscience.

  16. Cali Ron says:

    “We have our religious freedom and we deserve to be respected.” What does freedom have to do with being respected. Just as they are free to practice mythology everyone else is free to laugh and ridicule them. The dresses and beards seem to have made them impervious to logic and common sense.

  17. barriejohn says:

    No discussion of homosexuality on the internet in Russia, either; no Siri.

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/04/14/russian-siri-refuses-to-talk-about-gays-i-will-pretend-i-didnt-hear-that/

  18. Peterat says:

    It’s a SIGN!

  19. Cali Ron says:

    Seems Russia is Putin homosexuality on the censorship list. I wish they’d censor those photos of Putin without a shirt. Got to hand it to him, he’s managed to pull Russia backwards into the last century right down to the struggling economy, loss of personal freedoms and bringing the Russian Orthodox church back into government backed power (although I’m sure that he’s just using the church and won’t hesitate to slap them back down if they interfere with any of his power mongering plans). He’d make a good right wing republican in America, just like Netanyahoo!

  20. Vanity Unfair says:

    “Several of the country’s best-known directors are being scrutinised for their modernised productions of classic Russian plays, such as Alexander Pushkin’s Boris Godunov and Nikolai Gogol’s Dead Souls. ”

    “Dead Souls” was either banned http://www.thefileroom.org/documents/dyn/DisplayCase.cfm/id/1150 or “merely” censored http://www.russianlife.com/paulerichardson/gogol.cfm on its appearance by state and/or church because, amongst other things souls are immortal so cannot be dead. The story has been amended in retelling many times so different versions exist.

    However, that the church did have an effect on Gogol is shown in this extract from russianlife:
    “On New Year’s Day 1852, Gogol told a friend that the second volume ofDead Souls was “completely finished.” But by month’s end, the writer was in the depths of another psychological breakdown as a result of losing a dear friend. It was at this point that Father Matvey happened by for a visit and, the evidence seems to show, urged Gogol to destroy part of the second volume, for fear of its potential “harmful effects.” Gogol, for his part, may have taken this as an omen that the book might not be well received. In February, he burned the manuscript (an incomplete manuscript of five chapters survives) and began a Lenten fast. He refused all food and medical aid and starved himself to death,  breathing his last on February 21.”

    It is heartening to know that “Dead Souls” is now embraced by the Russian authorities. Who knows, perhaps in another 160 years avant garde productions of “Tannhäuser” will be too. (It has a ridiculous plot, even by opera standards: http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/opera-synopses-l-thru-z/qt/Tannhauser-Synopsis-Wagner-Opera.htm). The conflation of classical and Christian mythology is, however, intrinsic.

    I note that the Russian flags flourished on the demo have imperial eagles and the one with “Ya Putin [photo]” reminds me of the WW2 habit of adorning tanks and aircraft with the slogan, “Ya Stalin”: a portent, perhaps. Or am I reading too much into this isolated photograph?

  21. barriejohn says:

    It doesn’t matter whether art is “good” or “bad”, or even “ridiculous and stupid” (see above). Artists should be free to express themselves without fear of censorship or, as Vanity Unfair says, pressure from the establishment, whether we agree with their views or not, and whether we admire their work or not.

  22. Robster says:

    What would happen to the international success of Russian humour without the ability to lampoon stupid old men in silly hats and dresses? There’s very little to laugh at in Russia it would seem, so to remove this guaranteed source of mirth will lead to a severe case of national depression in the former USSR.

  23. 1859 says:

    Slightly OT but still to do with censorship of the arts: I have just stepped off a long haul flight with the UAE Emirates. A few weeks before flying I went to see the film ‘Turner’ (very boring), but it was being offered as an in-flight film. I began watching, hoping a second viewing would imporove my opinion. We came to the scene where Turner’s father asks his painter son if he would like ‘another piece of cheek’, and he happily slices off some meat from a pig’s head on the table. I couldn’t believe it when this scene appeared on the Emirates flight – the pig’s head had been totally air- brushed out! WTF!!!

  24. Marky Mark says:

    “What would happen to the international success of Russian humour without the ability to lampoon stupid old men in silly hats and dresses? There’s very little to laugh at in Russia it would seem”

    …Have you seen the Russians drive? There all over youtube and are the most dangerous and funny drivers i have ever seen….plenty to laugh at about the Russians.

    google: “bad Russian drivers”, and you’ll see what i mean.