LGBT grandstanding and whatnot

Back a few years ago, one of my favourite singers, Joyce DiDonato, made a few headlines outside of the classical music world by dedicating her performance at the Last Night of the Proms to the LGBT community.  Over the previous year, the singer had made a few outspoken interviews criticizing the heavy handed Russian tactics against the LGBT community.  She was not entirely alone, but in at least one interview JDD mentioned having turned down offers of work in Russia on the grounds of continued harassment of that community.

The context of the day was of course, also the annexation of the Crimea and ongoing harangue of the Ukraine.  This was prior to the more notorious political meddling in elections in both the UK and USA, with severe repercussions for the future of democracy still playing out.  So it was a very big surprise to hear that JDD is booked for two concerts in Moscow next week, after all of that.

Russian is as much of an international pariah as ever.  However, with a constant propaganda war in the west a bigger tactic than ever, there is an increasing proportion of the western population willing to accept the conspiratorial thinking of Russian meddlers, and reject the Western view of Russia as an anti-democratic, anti-rational force. It dismays many of us who admired JDD's principled stand, in contrast to other singers such as Anna Netrebko and institutions like the LPO and the Met Opera, in supporting Putin and working closely in the west with others close to Putin.  In fairness, I do think it is a different matter for Russian artists, who are not truly free to express their opinions and may be doing so under duress.

JDD was most certainly not the only classical performer to travel East despite concerns.  However she was probably the only one to specifically tie it to the treatment of the LGBT communities, being an artist with a particularly strong LGBT fan base.  It must come as a disappointment to those who felt JDD stood more strongly for her views than others: I recall at the same time noticing at least 2 other artists (one of whom is openly gay, the other who has spoken about LGBT family members), either working closely with the Met publicity machine at the height of the anti-Putin protests targeting the Met or performing in Russia (in fairness, probably booked years in advance).  JDD gave courage to those who felt Russian interests were getting a free pass when it gave to their countries misbehaviour in the world.

That's why it is really saddening to see JDD turn away from her principled boycott and go there.  Russia is an extremely cultural nation with a rich heritage: boycotts hurt it far more deeply than many western states.  It is a shame, that such principles may have turned out in the long run to be more akin to grandstanding than a genuine concern for the welfare of others.  LGBT fans may do well to look elsewhere in future and turn a more critical eye for fashionable statements of support when the climate is favourable.


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