Geoffrey Wale: Appreciate Tamar Iveri’s voice, not her opinions

Tamar Iveri is an opera singer from Tbilisi, Georgia. Her career is thriving since her debut at La Scala in Milan in 2011. She has an extraordinary talent and is very much in demand at opera houses across the world. She is currently embroiled in a scandal for allegedly having approved of anti-gay protests in Georgia in 2013.

Same-sex activity was decriminalized in Georgia in 2000. However, she hails from a society where 83.9% of the population (according to the CIA World Fact Book) practices Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the majority belonging to the national Georgian Orthodox Church. The Georgian Orthodox Church opposes homosexuality as a contravention of traditional Georgian values and the public largely concurs.

It is alleged she made the following statement in a letter to the Georgian president following violent anti-gay protests in Tbilisi in 2013:

I was quite proud of the fact how Georgian society spat at the parade… Often, in certain cases, it is necessary to break jaws in order to be appreciated as a nation in the future, and to be taken into account seriously. Please, stop vigorous attempts to bring West’s ‘fecal masses’ in the mentality of the people by means of propaganda.

The letter was brought to the attention of the National Opera of Paris by the Georgian gay rights organization Identoba who asked that her concert at the National Opera of Paris be cancelled.

She admits to approving of the anti-gay protests, despite having many gay friends. She has since formally apologized for airing these comments and views. Her apology proved too little, too late for Opera Australia who hired her to sing the role of Desdemona in a production of Verdi’s Otello in July 2014. In learning of her comments, Opera Australia has seen fit to release her from her contract noting “Opera Australia believes the views as stated to be unconscionable.”

The fact remains that vehement religious opposition to homosexuality is a reality in Georgian society and she has as much right as anyone else to speak her mind on the issue. That she saw fit to openly express her opinion on homosexuality has caused her considerable embarrassment outside of Georgia and the cancellation of her contract with Opera Australia.

Opera Australia would do well to remember is that her views are her own and do not represent those of her employer. Audiences appreciate her for her voice, not her personal opinions.

The Hustings