Georgian soprano ‘replaced’ in Belgium as her story comes under scrutiny at home.

La Monnaie Opera in Brussels is reported to have replaced Georgian soprano Tamar Iveri, due to appear in their production of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera next year in light of the furore surrounding comments she, or her husband, made last year in a letter posted on her Facebook page. In the letter she described LGBT people as “deviants” and suggests that homosexuality is part of the “faecal mass” being foisted on Georgia by the West. New information, meanwhile, has come to light challenging the account that Iveri gave of the affair on her Facebook page yesterday.

The letter, bearing Tamar Iveri’s name and addressed to the then Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, was dated May 18, 2013 and was a response to the President’s condemnation of an attack by Orthodox Christians on a LGBT parade in the Georgian capital Tiblisi the previous day, May 17. According to Ms Iveri yesterday, she had written an original letter, concerned that “on the 17th of May 2013 a gay parade was supposed to pass directly in the yard of an Orthodox Church in Tiflis”, at the same time as a “commemoration for Georgian soldiers killed in Afghanistan had been announced”. Several commentators have pointed to evidence that the commemoration actually happened the day before, on May 16.

As to Ms Iveri’s claim yesterday that her husband had posted the offending letter on her Facebook page without her consent, her June 2, 2013 apology to Identoba, a leading LGBT organisation in Georgia, has now been posted on the Internet. In it Iveri does indeed apologise for the hurt she may have caused, but makes no mention of her husband having posted the letter.

She admits that it was a “period of great tension and stress” for her and that because of rehearsals she hadn’t had a chance to check the facts regarding the events. She claims that she had received calls and information that gay people would be “in costume in front of children… Naked guys in swimming costume… I was told that they were mocking and act defiantly”. She goes on suggest that she and her husband (who was in mourning for a close friend killed in Afganistan) had written the letter in a “very agitated and emotional” state in an Internet café in the heat of 10 minutes. In the letter to Indentoba she says that after she discovered that it was just 50 people holding a silent protest, and witnessed the violent crackdown, she “immediately deleted” the post but that it was too late – a very different story to the one she told on Facebook yesterday.

Indentoba has today written another letter to Iveri expressing disapointment that she has changed her story, and as a result say that they no longer can accept her previous apology, which they had taken in good faith. Iveri had written to Indentoba after they had petitioned the National Opera of Paris where she was due to appear. “You wrote us to say you were sorry for the pain your words may have inflicted upon us. We wanted to believe you. We truly were hoping you understood the devastating power of those words. Alas, turns out, you were just worried your concerts were to be canceled by the French opera houses. In the follow-up interviews that very summer, not only did you continue business-as-usual saying: ‘I do not wish to see naked men running in the streets of Tbilisi’, but after Australian uprising, you tried to place all the blame on your husband, saying hi (sic) misused your FB account.”

In an interview she gave to the Georgian media outlet MediaMall.ge on July 4 last year, and translated for Limelight here, Iveri again makes no reference to her husband hi-jacking her Facebook page. In it she says “As for my famous status that caused such huge positive/negative response, I will say one thing: On that day, as readers might have noticed I was very agitated and absolutely sincere in expressing my opinions. At the end of the status I even apologised to readers if they had found it impolite.”

“My agitation was caused by the turmoil and accidental or deliberate promotion/propaganda, which in those days was passing through the media. My friends were calling and telling me that children were talking about gay parade all day long and that they could not take that anymore.”

In the wide ranging interview Iveri expresses her opinions on a number of issues including whether people are born gay or choose their sexuality: “The American doctor and scientist, Charles Socarides cured many of these ‘acquired’ patients. They returned to their usual family life”, and LGBT parades in general: “I have come across gay parades several times. I want to believe that something like this does not happen in Georgia. It is absolutely unacceptable for me – a theatrical performance with man’s huge phallus figures, naked man with almost just a fig leaf, sexual movements, fondling and oral kissing of each other.”

Her only reference in the interview to her husband is to say, “Raul’s opinion coincides with mine. He is a religious man and a truth teller. Although he too has many friends from sexual minorities, that rally, stubbornly conducted in the centre of the city was unacceptable for him”, and she ends by saying, “I want to live in Georgia, where I as a female singer won’t need to give such interviews. From now on I will probably be more careful”.

Opera Australia issued a statement yesterday: “Tamar Iveri has sought to clarify her views on this important issue, and has issued an apology and explanation on her own Facebook page,” they said, adding that “rehearsals and performances at Opera Australia are continuing as planned.”

Meanwhile, the worldwide opera community and Australia’s LGBT community have ramped up their calls for Opera Australia to dismiss Iveri from Otello, due to open next month in Sydney and a Melbourne season of Tosca later this year. A petition calling for Iveri’s visa to be revoked has gathered over 3,500 signatures on change.org