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Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri, scheduled to sing Desdemona in Otello for Opera Australia in July and Tosca later this year in Melbourne, has been roundly condemned for an open letter she wrote to the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in May last year. In the lengthy diatribe, originally posted on her Facebook page, she describes LGBT people as “deviants” and suggests that homosexuality is part of the “faecal mass” being foisted on Georgia by the West.
Iveri’s outburst came on the back of a rally organised by LGBT activists and other Georgian citzens to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) in the city of Tbilisi. According to reports, tens of thousands of Orthodox Christian activists attacked the participants some of whom, it is claimed, narrowly escaped death. Iveri, however, lambasted the Georgian President for condemning the violence writing that she was “proud of the fact how Georgian society spat at the parade”.
The letter, which contains frequent references to bodily waste, sexual practices and Western moral corruption makes for difficult reading. Backing those who attacked the parade, Iveri says that “often, in certain cases, it is necessary to break jaws in order to be appreciated as a nation” and maintaining that the perpetrators of the violence were “Georgian youth of pure blood, still unspoiled by you [President Mikheil Saakashvili]”.
Iveri has since removed the letter from her Facebook page but it is reproduced in translation on a number of Internet sites. Georgian LGBT organisations were quick to retaliate with the Identoba online news site denouncing Iveri as an “outspoken homophobe and xenophobe, and accusing her of “using her reputation as a known opera singer to bring hate to Georgian youth.”
Indeed, the prominent Georgian LGBT human rights organisation took it upon themselves to write to the Director of the National Opera of Paris last year where she was due to perform in concert urging them to “review giving Ms. Tamar Iveri opportunity to have one of the most prestigious art platforms in the world to further spread hate. Letting [a] person of such values, as Ms. Iveri, sing about love, perform love songs of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky would be a hypocrisy to [a] French audience, [a] society known as a cradle of democracy and humanist movement.” In a report last week, the Georgian News TV website claimed that the National Opera of Paris indeed cancelled the concert, despite receiving an apology from Iveri.
Australian opera commentators, meanwhile, are taking to social media to draw attention to Iveri’s upcoming engagements in Sydney and Melbourne. Soprano and teacher Vicki Watson writes that “her use of her operatic profile to support hate against LGBT and others is deeply disturbing and has the Australian opera community in shock” while Siro Battaglin says: "I feel sorry for my gay colleagues working on that production who are forced to be polite to her."
A spokesperson for Opera Australia said that they were unable to offer an official comment.
Tamar Iveri’s letter can be read in full here.