St. Petersburg Composer's Opera Incites Violence
A violent attack on a local composer is the latest in a series of incidents targeting his most recent composition.
Published: August 27, 2014 (Issue # 1826)
The premiere of a new opera was canceled in St. Petersburg last week after both the refusal of yet another venue to hold it and an assault on the opera’s composer.
Called “New Jerusalem,” the opera composed by award-winning local composer Ilya Demutsky with librettist Artyom Suslov will not premiere in the city due to the worsening political and cultural climate, Demutsky said in an interview with The St. Petersburg Times on Aug. 23.
With its main character a hunter for pedophiles, the opera’s premiere had already been canceled by the Lendoc studios, where it was originally scheduled to be held on Apr. 4 and 5, following reported calls from the police and authorities to the venue’s management. However, a recent physical attack on Demutsky himself came as a total surprise, he said.
According to Demutsky, he was invited via email for an interview allegedly with the Moscow-based liberal television channel Dozhd, but when he arrived to meet a television crew outside the St. Petersburg State Conservatory at 3 p.m. on Aug. 17, he was attacked by a man who emerged from around the corner with a scarf wrapped around his face.
Demutsky said he ran across the square to the Mariinsky Theater to hide inside while the attacker followed him and repeatedly attempted to use a taser on him. A clash between the two then occurred outside the theater, with a window being broken and Demutsky’s wrist cut deeply by a glass shard. The attacker then ran away after the Mariinsky Theater’s security guards ran out of the building.
Following the attack, a note was found on the site saying “Pedophile Ilya. One more opera and you’ll be at the graveyard. Leave for your motherland, for the U.S.”
After reporting the attack to the police, Demutsky received a series of threats via email in which anonymous people demanded that he revoke his report, Vitaly Cherkasov, Demutsky’s lawyer and part of the Agora human rights group, told the media on Monday.
In an interview with The St. Petersburg Times, Demutsky said he suspected that certain officials were behind the attack rather than grassroots Orthodox activists.
Demutsky, 31, became widely known last year after being awarded first prize in a European composition competition, 2 Agosto, and a medal from the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, for musical work inspired by an imprisoned member of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot. “The Final Statement of the Accused” is a ten-minute piece for mezzo-soprano and orchestra based on Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina’s closing remarks at the controversial Pussy Riot trial in Moscow on Aug. 8, 2012.
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