Queer Nation Disrupts Carnegie Hall Performance In Protest Against Anti-Gay Russia


As planned, activists from Queer Nation NY protested a performance at Carnegie Hall Thursday night led by Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, who The New York Times calls, "one of Russia’s most important cultural exports these days." The furor was over Russia's recently enacted anti-gay law that makes it a crime to disseminate propaganda promoting "non-traditional" sexual orientations. Gergiev has been a vocal supporter of President Vladimir Putin, a key proponent of the of anti-gay measures in Russia, even receiving the recently resurrected Soviet-era honor "Hero of Labor" from Putin. Last month also saw Queer Nation NY show up to protest Gergiev and Russia's anti-gay policies at the opening night of New York's Metropolitan Opera.

From Queer Nation, via press release:

"Valery Gergiev should not be able to perform without being called out for his vocal support of Russia’s anti-gay president," said John Weir, one of the protesters. “Gergiev’s silence about Putin’s anti-gay laws is killing lesbian and gay Russians. We’re here to break that silence."

Earlier in the evening, Queer Nation protested in front of Carnegie Hall. Demonstrators, including several Russian gay men and women, carried a 60-foot rainbow flag that read “Support Russian Gays” and held placards. Protestors also handed out informational flyers to arriving audience members and passersby.

On October 4, Queer Nation wrote to Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s executive and artistic director, asking that Carnegie Hall condemn the Russian government’s attacks on LGBT Russians. He declined, adding that “musical events are not the appropriate setting for political statements.”

The NYT reports:

Gergiev, your silence is killing Russian gays!” several protesters
shouted, as Mr. Gergiev, in tails, kept his back to the audience. Some
members of the audience booed the protesters; others applauded. One
woman yelled, “This is an artistic event!”

The protesters were removed from the auditorium, and the concert proceeded.


Both of the Gergiev performances delayed by protests had an added
resonance for gay rights supporters. The Met opened its season with
“Eugene Onegin” by Tchaikovsky, whom Peter Gelb, the Met’s general
manager, described as
“Russia’s great gay composer.” And the Carnegie Hall concert featured
three Stravinsky ballets — “The Firebird,” “Pétrouchka,” and “The Rite
of Spring” — that were commissioned by the great impresario Sergei
Diaghilev, who was also gay, for his storied dance troupe, the Ballets

(Photo via Queer Nation NY tumblr)


  1. JT says

    Why are our most artistic venues having Russians conduct music over here all of a sudden. Did we run out of our own conductors?

  2. Frank says

    @JT There has been a long history of Russians in the opera and in the conducting world, its really nothing new but it does make for a good target these days.

  3. Jenny A says

    “…but it does make for a good target…”

    Your non-chalance is disgusting. LGBT are being tortured, beaten, incarcerated and killed in Russia and all you have to say is that???

    You’re a troll.

  4. JeffNYC says

    There’s a lot of Russian money in NYC right now, from the oligarchs and the Russian mafia. The wives of the rich Russians like to see Russian performers. You should see how these women dress for the opera. Lots of tight dresses, animal furs and tacky bling.

  5. Fenrox says

    Yeah these boycotts don’t work, the vodka one worked. Also please tell me someone punched Michael Lucas in the face.

  6. keating says

    Putin is a pig and his lapdog Gergiev should be protested. But i am not sure that the photo of porn king Lucas commenting on morals helps our cause.

  7. Busytimmy says

    It’s irresponsible to suggest that Gergiev’s support for Putin in the last election = support for persecution of LGBT people. He heads major artistic organizations in Russia and as such needs support from the state. He is also a man if the world, working with orchestras and opera houses all over the globe, I very much doubt he holds animus towards LGBT people. The protests are embarrassing and ineffective. So Gergiev say he disagrees with the law, what does that accomplish?

  8. MaryM says

    Keating – it’s funny you refer to Michael Lucas as a porn king.

    Surely ‘aging whore’ is a more accurate description.

  9. @JAMAL49 says

    @BUSYTIMMY I’m sure you would have stood up along with that woman and yelled, “This is an artistic event!” How pathetic that you find such protests as “embarrassing and ineffective”. Sorry, hon, suffer the embarrassment. There is a great potential for serious, violent persecution of LGBTQ people in Russia. It’s a good thing you weren’t around when ACT-UP was in full swing. My, how embarrassed you would have been!

  10. anon says

    If social media can take down dictators in the Middle East they should be able to shame Russia and Putin.

  11. bobbyjoe says


    DOES Gergiev disagree with the anti-gay laws? He’s had all sorts of opportunities now to say so, but to the best of my knowledge he hasn’t done so. At least Anna Netrebko put out a weak-sauce “I don’t discriminate against anyone” kind of statement. But I think we’ve gotten zilch from Gergiev.

    As to the Metropolitian Opera and Carnegie Hall, I seriously doubt they’d take such a blase approach and host a conductor who was promoting and contributing money to the Ku Klux Klan. There’s really no difference to Gergiev promoting Putin, who has an absolutely horrendous record on human rights, even far beyond GLBT issues(just as one example beyond the GLBT laws, from simply a musical standpoint, where’s Gergiev’s– or Carnegie Hall’s or the Met’s– solidarity with the musicians Pussy Riot, who are imprisoned by Putin for simply speaking their minds?). If anything, Putin has much more power to actually hurt real people at this point than minor league nobodies like the Klan.

    By pretending that it doesn’t matter, Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera’s peter Gelb are as guilty of fostering bigotry and violence as if they were hosting a Klan-supporter or a contributing member of the Neo-Nazis. Gergiev puts money in Putin’s pockets and helps keep Putin in power, and Putin is seriously hurting lots of people.

  12. Dorimus says

    Why these meanspirited and bitchy attacks on an adult film performer? Gergiev should be called out for lending his enthusiastic support to a loathsome homophobic thug and ignorant bully who personifies Russian moral decay. Bravo to Queer Nation and Michael Lucas.

  13. Dorimus says

    Why these meanspirited and bitchy attacks on an adult film performer? Gergiev should be called out for lending his enthusiastic support to a loathsome homophobic thug and ignorant bully who personifies Russian moral decay. Bravo to Queer Nation and Michael Lucas.

  14. tbd says

    So there weren’t any better photos of the protest than Michael Lucas? Really? We’ll never get anywhere if we’re represented by porn stars. This is an awful and embarrassing photo choice on the part of towleroad.

  15. Aleksey says

    Right, so Queer Nation adopted the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” motto? Good luck on that one, you’ll garner your support.. If someone is not fighting for your rights, don’t spew your hatred on them for it. It’s your rights, it’s your responsibility to fight for them, not their. At best they will just start ignoring you, but most likely, they will start not liking you and whatever you represent. And bang, you just created yourself another enemy and made your goal even harder.
    Look, there are animal right activists that quietly explain their point of view and there is PETA. The former achieve something and gain support, the latter is at best a laughing stock, but more often than not – a deterrent from the cause with their track of outrageous and misplaced outbursts.
    Keep the radical stance and you become the PETA of the gay right movement. I’m supporting all my gay friends in their right to live, love, get married and have a private life of their choosing. This misplaced protest, however, makes me want to turn around and have some of these people subjected to basic logic exam at least. Now adjust for those who have no casual exposure to normal gay people and are indifferent or even already slightly homophobic in Russia. Do you really think you’re helping Russian gays to avoid the hate that is already pouring out on them with your actions? You’re doing them a disservice.

  16. MKULTRA says

    Don’t try shaming us.
    The movement to support gay Russians has taken on many forms. This is just one of them.
    We can pretend that diplomacy alone will help. But that’s a fool’s dream.
    The movement needs an aggressive side too.
    We know what we’re doing. We don’t need Russian propaganda like you’re pushing to tell us “the right way”.

  17. Busytimmy says

    David E., you know nothing about me, how can you assume (wrongly) that I would both be a republican and kiss their ass? Makes you look pretty foolish. That kind of immature name calling is really old. Gergiev is on record saying that in 25 years as the head of the Mariansky theatre he has discriminated against no one. I’m certain that he has worked closely with LGBT people during his worldwide career in the major opera houses of the world. I’ve worked with him.

    As another example, should people have been protesting outside of Los Angeles philharmonic concerts with Gustavo Dudamel? He was a supporter of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

    There are better targets (Olympics) that Gergiev to protest Russia’s horrendous anti gay laws.

  18. Busytimmy says

    So, now Gergiev= Nazi? Again, there are way better targets. Is every Russian classical musician who also supports Putin to be cast in the same light?

  19. Randy says

    Putin pays people to spend their days writing positive comments, and counter-acting negative comments about him and his buddies.

    On the other hand, I write against them for free.

  20. Busytimmy says

    Hey Randy, I just told Putin what you said. Yeah, we are hanging out right now, talking and stuff. Yeah.

  21. jarago says

    Why was this a “misplaced protest” Aleksey? The Evil Empire has always known how to use sports and arts to serve their propaganda machine . Russian art elite must understand that we are not going to take their silent acceptance quietly.

  22. FFS says

    I support the stance of these protestors. I have no problem with porn stars joining a movement. Michael Lucas, tho? Eh . . .

    Maybe he’d project more credibility if he was naked.

  23. Douglas says

    I’m glad that Queer Nation did this, but protesting outside Carnegie Hall hardly amounts to a disruption of the performance itself, as this article’s headline incorrectly states.