There's a curious silence surrounding Valery Gergiev's upcoming Toronto appearance. Having previously faced a backlash from LGBT communities in London and New York, he's set to take stage at Roy Thomson Hall.
At one time Gergiev was considered the darling of Russia and regarded by many as one of the best conductors in the world. He also gained notoriety for his proactive support for president Vladimir Putin and his anti-gay propaganda laws, "In Russia we do everything we can to protect children from pedophiles" said Gergiev referring to laws that make it illegal to be LGBT and nearly impossible to talk about.
In 2013, The New Yorker published an article about Gergiev, outlining his cozy connection with Putin and his anti-LGBT history. When responding to questions about a Pussy Riot case, Gergiev suggested they were just out to make money, when at the time one of them was on a hunger strike in a prison camp. Ironically Gergiev made his wealth from art with Forbes approximating his total income at $16.5 million.
While the situation for LGBT people in Russia remains grim, the anti-gay propaganda legislation has given rise to horrific gay concentration camps, anti-gay vigilante groups and a dramatic increase in civilian on civilian hate crimes. A state sanctioned era of hate, torture, terror and intimidation forcing citizens to flee the country, hide in fear or face the unspeakable.
So why would Roy Thompson Hall host him? Or the Bank of Montreal want to be the title sponsor? Perhaps more importantly, who's buying these tickets? It matters that we give space to the provocative and controversial but we need to draw the line when it undermines the human rights of others.