As the Metropolitan Opera House debuted its new season Monday with the opening of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin," protesters gathered outside Lincoln Center to call for the production's Russian star and guest conductor to speak out against the treatment of the LGBT community in Russia. NY1's Stephanie Simon filed the following report.
Opening night at the Metropolitan Opera House is one of the biggest and most glamorous nights of the year.
"Tonight we are having a performance of Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky's greatest opera with an incredible cast, starring Anna Netrebko and Mariusz Kwiecien. It's a great start to what I hope will be a great season," said Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb.
Usually, the biggest protests on the opera's opening night occur inside the house from ardent opera fans, who occasionally boo the newer productions.
This year, however, two groups led a protest outside the Metropolitan Opera House Monday night.
Queer Nation New York and RUSA LGBT say the MET, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko and the Russian guest conductor should speak out against the Russian government and its laws discriminating against LGBT Russians.
The groups called on the MET to dedicate opening night to the LGBT community.
Some protesters with tickets went inside and disrupted the quiet before the opening curtain, and then were escorted out.
"I can understand why some people felt a little bit inconvenienced, but they have no idea what the citizens in Russia who are LGBT and others who are oppressed day in and day out feel," said Ken Kidd from Queer Nation NY.
"I agree with the protesters, obviously we're all, many of the MET company, if not all of them I'm sure, are solidly behind what the LGBT movement stands for. We never in our 129 year history have ever dedicated a performance to any cause," Gelb said.
The red carpet was more subdued than usual, but not lacking in star power, with Jill Hennessy, Dana Delaney, Amare Stoudemire, Heater Graham, Patti Smith, Mischa Barton and Brook Shields in attendance.
"I have the utmost respect for opera and for the athleticism of their voices and what they're able to do," said actor Brook Shields.
Actor Patrick Stuart wore a rainbow ribbon in support of the LGBT community.
"There's a very simple answer as to why we're wearing these pins tonight. Because we can, because we live in a democracy, and wearing these pins is not going to see us arrested and thrown in jail," Stuart said.
Opera fans can expect equal, if not more, excitement of a different kind Tuesday night, when conductor James Levine returns to the Metropolitan Opera House after a two-year absence due to health problems.