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Director of Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre fired in religious backlash

By The Siberian Times reporter
29 March 2015

A production of Wagner's opera 'Tannhauser' seen as offending devout Orthodox believers.

'What has been done in the Novosibirsk Opera House - is sacrilege.' Picture: Slava Stepanov

The dismissal of Boris Mezdrich was announced by Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky, a move that is likely to deepen a controversy that has divided opinion across the country. 

The theatre's 'avant-garde' production of the Wagner opera amounted to blasphemy, according to some Orthodox activists. Mezdrich was replaced by Vladimir Kekhman, head of the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg, who had openly called for his resignation.

The dismissal came as several thousand protesters rallied against the opera, waving patriotic flags and banners. One said: 'Orthodox Christianity is the foundation of the great Russian culture.'

Boris Mezdrich

The decision to fire Mezdrich brought to an end his second stint at Russia's largest theatre. Picture: Maya Shelkovnikova

Another demonstration in Novosibirsk was in support of the modern interpretation of the 19th century work.

The dispute has been portrayed as a battle between a liberal intelligentsia in charge of prominent cultural institutions, and an increasingly assertive Orthodox Church.

Many leading Russian cultural figures have spoken in favour of artistic freedom as the controversy deepened in recent weeks. 

Prosecutors started administrative case against the performance's director Timofey Kulyabin and Mezdrich for 'desecration of objects of religious worship'. The court dropped the charges last Tuesday, but the prosecutors appealed. 

The decision to fire Mezdrich brought to an end his second stint at Russia's largest theatre. Kekhman said he would remain in charge of the Mikhailovsky combining it with his new role. 

Earlier this month he branded the performance as 'sacrilege'.

Kekhman

Kekhman said he would remain in charge of the Mikhailovsky combining it with his new role. Picture: Denis Vyshinsky/Trend

'My teacher Elena Obraztsova often repeated: 'I sing because God gave me the talent, and without God I am nothing',' he said. 'What has been done in the Novosibirsk Opera House - is sacrilege. 

'I, as a believer, baptized, orthodox, as a Jew, take it as an insult. This is a demonstration of the internal wickedness in the style and spirit of the union of militant atheists. 

'Frankly, I spoke today with Mezdrich, and he told me that he will not give up this show and will go to the end. I think that he must resign, and performance should be removed from the repertoire.'

A major business figure, involved in fruit imports, Samara-born Kekhman has faced controversy in his commercial dealings. 

Comments (7)

What time gays
What time it open, Usa froth wroth
21/04/2016 21:58
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Kekhman is unscrupulous and should not be in charge of cultural institutions, he will only pervert them.
Mike, Saint Paul, Minnesota
11/10/2015 11:55
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMGYfa_FR2Y This is the link for the UDI act.
Jaker, Dundalk
11/05/2015 06:12
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Siberian Times we in this part of the world last night (09-05-2015) saw a brilliant Siberian dance act called UDI on Britain's Got Talent. They were truly brilliant...maybe you could follow it up & do a piece about them. They seem to do a lot of charity work helping Siberian orphanage children learn to dance. All the Judges gave them a standing ovation, including the famous critic Simon Cowell.
Jaker, Dundalk
11/05/2015 05:39
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Hello Siberian Times, long time, no see, me...had to take off for a while to see to other injustices elsewhere. You know I respect people who practice religion, no matter what kind, but I detest the "Hypocrites" of any church, when they are pretending to be holy & pious. God can see their falseness from above...and will punish them come the time. As regards, Putin, being religious...that is very funny indeed. At Siberian Times, I hope you're all very well & I can see you are as busy as ever & still doing a great job with the paper & website.
Jaker, Dundalk
30/03/2015 22:19
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Consumers are the ones to decide if they reject a play or if they think it is a provocation or just bad quality. Obviously, being the Director a public employee he has to act according to Russian law.
Enrique, Spain
30/03/2015 20:23
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It is not bad that directors are open to innovation from time to time.
Enrique, Spain
30/03/2015 08:21
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