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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)



  • Ilya Demutsky has been under attack for his new opera New Jerusalem, about a group of hunters who search for pedophiles.
    Photo: Sergey Chernov / SPT

According to Demutsky, his new opera deals with a group of hunters for pedophiles not unlike the one led by extreme nationalist Maxim Martsinkevich, also known as Tesak (Hatchet or Hand Axe), who was sentenced to five years for inciting ethnic hatred in Moscow on Aug. 18. Called Occupy Pedophilia, Martsinkevichs group reportedly lured people via fake accounts, set appointments and then tortured and humiliated them on video. The group was reported to also target LGBT people as well.

I did not study the subject and did not watch the videos because theyre revolting and not interesting to me I only used a literary text, the libretto, Demutsky said.

Tesak could probably be seen as the prototype for the main character, but the meaning of the opera is that a hunter for pedophiles kills a pedophile during one of his hunts, and then I raise philosophical, religious, moral and aesthetic issues. Does he have the right to do this? Even if we understand perfectly that pedophilia is a crime, that it is disgusting, does he still have the right to kill a person in the name of some higher purpose? Thats what the opera is about.

According to Demutsky, the controversy and pressure was caused by the phrase hunters for pedophiles, which was used to describe the operas subject, rather than the its actual content.

There is almost no action. There is a brief murder scene in the beginning but without any flesh and blood, he said.

A pedophile is being burnt at the stake and dies singing, but what follows is a dialogue between God and the hunter, where God asks, Did you have the right to do this in My name? Who do you think you are, a doctor or inquisitor? We try to deal with these kind of questions.

Demutsky said poet and theater producer Suslov wrote to him on a social network and offered his libretto for a possible opera in late August 2013 after Demutsky had become known in the media following the success of The Final Statement of the Accused.

Having read the libretto, I understood that it might be interesting on stage, especially because it was well written and dealt with difficult subjects, and I think such things have not yet been done in the opera scene, Demutsky said.

I thought it would be something innovative, not from the point of view of my work as a composer, but of the themes dealt with in the opera. Its in classical form, written in the complex Russian language, in verse, but it has an absolutely contemporary plot. At the same time, it touches on philosophical, ethical and moral issues, and we embody it in music as an opera, with classical beautiful voices in my style, with nothing avant-garde. So I agreed.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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