In an open letter, Opera Ukraine has demanded that artists be publicly shamed and isolated for their political opinions, or for even staying silent. It is extremely life-threatening and dangerous for Russian artists to speak out and denounce Vladimir Putin and his actions, and despite knowing the full severity and consequences of such statements, Opera Ukraine is forcing artists to make this very difficult decision. Acting in political disobedience not only dangers the life of an artist, but also their entire family and loved ones.
The full letter from Opera Ukraine is published below.
We deeply appreciate your solidarity and all the support you are willing to show to Ukraine today. We also understand your desire to embed the longer term perspective into your response and actions.
However, we feel we must bring to your attention several aspects of the situation, which may be less visible from a distance. First of all, many Ukrainian artists, indeed most Ukrainian citizens today, are in a position when their welfare and even life are being threatened daily. Our museums, theatres, philarmonies and concert halls are being shelled and bombed daily – specifically, Kharkiv National Opera, a member of Opera Europa, has been already damaged by the Russian artillery fire. It is very hard for us to understand why all of this is of less concern now than necessity to keep the doors open to the cooperation with Russian theaters in the longer term.
Secondly, we are not pushing for some paper sanctions – we simply want Russian cultural institutions and their leaders to speak about their position clearly and openly. They are highly visible actors in their own country, who used to have sufficient moral authority to influence position of their audiences on a broad spectrum of questions.
We strongly believe they must either
1) send a clear and unequivocal signal publicly that they condemn the actions of their government or
2) CHOOSE THE PATH OF SHAME AND ISOLATION, BY KEEPING SILENT AND OBSERVING THEIR OPERA EUROPA MEMBERSHIP BEING REVOKED.
This may be a challenging choice for them, and it may be an uneasy step for Opera Europa to make them face this choice – but it is the only moral thing to do now. And make no mistake – neither of us is pushing anyone into the maw of Putin, but together we have a chance to pull at least some of the Russians from his poisonous embrace.
We know we have support of several non-Ukrainian members of Opera Europa on this issue, but we hope this position will be adopted by Opera Europa as an organisation.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’. This short phrase perfectly captures our pathos. We hope for your understanding and would welcome bolder actions by Opera Europa. This war is not about Ukrainian national interests or politics, it is about common European values and human dignity."
Head of the State Agency of Arts and Artistic Education, co-founder of Open Opera Ukraine, independent opera company
General Manager-Artistic Director of the National operetta theatre of Ukraine, Kyiv
General Manager-Artistic Director of Taras Shevchenko National opera and ballet theatre of Ukraine, Kyiv
General Manager-Artistic Director of Solomiia Krushelnytska National opera and ballet theatre of Ukraine, Lviv
General Manager-Artistic Director of Odesa National opera and ballet theatre of Ukraine, Odesa
General Manager-Artistic Director of Mykola Lysenko National opera and ballet theatre of Ukraine, Kharkiv
General Director of the National Odesa Philarmonic Orchestra
Co-founder and Program Director of Open Opera Ukraine
Co-founder and Artistic Director of Open Opera Ukraine
Director General, Estonian National Opera
General Manager, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre
Dyrektor/General Manager Teatr Wielki im. Stanisława Moniuszki w Poznaniu
General Director, Národní divadlo / The National Theatre Prague
General Director Opera do Castelo & Operafest Lisboa