Gustavo Dudamel to perform at Sochi Winter Olympics

That headline is, of course, fiction, and can you imagine the outcry if it was true? But the facts are equally alarming: Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolivar Orchestra - classical music's social conscience - appeared on January 27th as part of the 2014 Abu Dhabi Festival in the United Arab Emirates, a region with a human rights record that makes contemporary Russia look like a liberal paradise. Article 80 of the Abu Dhabi Penal Code designates sodomy as punishable with imprisonment of up to 14 years, and in 2005 UAE justice minister Mohammed bin Nukhaira Al Dhahiri reportedly stated “There will be no room for homosexual and queer acts in the UAE... our society does not accept queer behaviour, either in word or in action”.

The United States is this year’s “country of honor” at the 2014 Abu Dhabi Festival and joining Gustavo Dudamel in the United Arab Emirates's capital this year are Renée Fleming and the Dresden Philharmonic, Miloš KaradaglićVladimir Ashkenazy with Gautier Capuçon and the European Union Youth Orchestra, and the American Ballet Theatre. After their recent Abu Dhabi concert Dudamel and El Sistema founder Jose Antonio Abreu endorsed the regime by accepting a special Abu Dhabi Festival Award from the UAE’s minister of culture. The reason why classical music is happy to protest about gay persecution in Russia but is equally happy to turn a blind eye to the inhuman policies of the United Arab Emirates is quite simple. Russia is not a major market for touring orchestras, but Abu Dhabi is. As somebody once said, I have my principles, but I am prepared to change them when it comes to money.

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Anonymous said…
Good catch. As far as I can tell, you're the first person writing about this, and it's a very important point.

The history of classical music is nothing if not political. This festival is no exception. Imagine the statement Renee Fleming, Dudamel et al. would have made boycotting this performance and condemning anyone who did perform?

Like athletes visiting Sochi,I'm sure orchestra members feel conflicted about playing in a country where civil rights violations are baked into law.

Thanks for posting this.

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