With overdressed guests still drifting in some 20 minutes after the scheduled start time, the Met's opening night gala was already running late. Just as the lights dimmed and it seemed as if the Eugene Onegin premiere might finally get under way, a voice rang out from behind me.
"Valery, your silence is killing Russian gays," a t-shirted man chanted over and over again from the rear right hand corner of the Family Circle (the cheap seats upstairs). Gergiev, true to form, hadn't turned up yet , so it was all a bit figurative. There were a few quiet groans and hushed words here and there, but most people sat patiently while the protest went on. However, as promised by Peter Gelb, the Met weren't having any of it. After just a minute or so, security staff escorted the man out.
Immediately another voice struck up, this time from the rear left. "Putin, stop your war on Russian gays," the voice repeated until he too was removed. Both protestors went quietly.
Ironically, the next item up was (everyone on hind legs) the Star-Spangled Banner. 'Land of the free' indeed.
There was apparently a peaceful anti-Putin protest outside too, though I couldn't see any demonstrators when I arrived, about half an hour before the show.
By the time the opera finished, an amazing 4 ½ hours after the scheduled start, perhaps everyone was all protested out. At any rate, there were no boos for Deborah Warner's turgid production, Gergiev's flaccid conducting or the couple of sub-par cast members. Business as usual.