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Opera Australia today parted company with the controversial Georgian soprano at the centre of a worldwide furore over incendiary homophobic comments that appeared on her Facebook page last year. Tamar Iveri will no longer appear in the Sydney production of Otello next month.
In a statement, Opera Australia said: “Opera Australia confirms soprano Ms Tamar Iveri will not be performing in Otello. Opera Australia has agreed with Tamar Iveri, to immediately release her from her contract with the company. Ms Iveri and her husband have both made public statements in the last 48 hours with regards to comments attributed to Ms Iveri. She has unreservedly apologised for those comments and views. Opera Australia believes the views as stated to be unconscionable.”
Although there has been no specific statement regarding her contracted and advertised return for Tosca in Melbourne later in the year, a spokesperson for Opera Australia said that the company was "following the same due process we worked through on Otello".
Pressure had been mounting on the national opera company to revoke Iveri’s contract since Limelight broke the story on Friday. In the letter from May 2013, LGBT people were described as “deviants” and homosexuality was referred to as part of the “faecal mass” being foisted on Georgia by the West.
On Saturday morning, Iveri took to Facebook with a statement distancing herself from the violent and homophobic sentiments, saying that her original letter had been copied, changed and posted by her husband without her consent. Opera Australia had initially said that, “Tamar Iveri has sought to clarify her views on this important issue, and has issued an apology and explanation on her own Facebook page,” adding that “rehearsals and performances at Opera Australia are continuing as planned.”
Over the weekend, however, new information came to light challenging Iveri’s account with an interview she gave last year reiterating her views on homosexuality and making no reference to her husband other than to say she shared his opinions. Iveri also claimed to have apologised to the LGBT community in Georgia but her letter to the LGBT organisation Indentoba has now been published in which she claimed to have written the offensive letter in haste in tandem with her husband. Indentoba have now rescinded their acceptance of Iveri’s apology.
The Australian opera community meanwhile had been ramping up the pressure on Opera Australia to dismiss Iveri with over 700 comments on their Facebook page and a petition circulating on change.org with over 4500 signatories calling on them to take action. Brussels has taken a lead as well, cancelling Iveri’s upcoming contract for Un Ballo In Maschera. Responding to Limelight's enquiry, Intendant Peter de Caluwe wrote: “I can confirm that la Monnaie will not be welcoming Mrs Iveri for the performances of Ballo in Maschera for which she had been planned in May 2015. I wish to stay loyal to my very intimate conviction that we cannot tolerate intolerance, of whatever kind. I feel this is a very honest reaction to a quite alarming kind of positioning which cannot be allowed in our theaters where harmony and striving for a true community experience remain our main mission.”
By Sunday afternoon, OA sponsors too had weighed in, responding to pressure via social media, with Mazda posting on its Facebook page, “We [are] aware of the comments and media surrounding Tamar Iveri and her work with Opera Australia… We acknowledge the community’s concerns and will seek more information on this matter.” Qantas, another key OA sponsor, tweeted: “Qantas is deeply concerned by these comments and we are discussing them with Opera Australia”.
Chief Executive Officer of Sotheby’s Australia Geoffrey Smith and his partner Gary Singer meanwhile had written to Opera Australia CEO Craig Hassell as concerned subscribers and patrons of Opera Australia. “We read with distress the article in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Saturday 21 June with respect to comments made by Tamar Iveri on homosexuals and we are truly appalled. We have no wish to see her on stage in any production of Opera Australia as it would be extremely upsetting. Please advise if she will be performing in Otello which we have tickets for the opening night in Sydney. If you intend to allow her to perform, we would request a refund, and if there is no refund our seats will be empty in protest against her appearing in the Opera. We will also urge our friends who are patrons and subscribers to do likewise. This has no connection to the fine work of all staff, cast and crew at Opera Australia, but solely directed to Ms Iveri and her offensive and unacceptable comments which have no place anywhere. We urge you to remove her from performing with Opera Australia.”
At this stage it is not known who will take over the role of Desdemona in Harry Kupfer’s production of Otello due to open in Sydney next month, nor what Ms Iveri’s role with Opera Australia might be with regard to future contracts.