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Footnote 23: The Czech National Theatre Cancels Tchaikovsky over Russia's 'special military operation' in Ukraine
You cannot make this stuff up: Czech media reports the National Theatre will not perform The Slippers because…
A short piece in Czech media outlet Sesnam Zprávy introduces the item as follows (lightly edited for clarity as Czech allows for rather long and winding sentences; translation and emphases mine).
Tchaikovsky’s The Slippers Will Not be Performed at the National Theatre due to the Russian Invasion
Caption reads: ‘We stand with Ukraine and we respect the decision of the directors not to support the story of the “Great” Russian Empire, according to the National Theater.’
Two weeks ago, employees of the National Theater received an internal announcement that next season, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, preparations for a performance by Petr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Slippers were canceled.
‘In the context of today’s situation where Russia’s current political leaders are waging a war of aggression against Ukraine, demanding unacceptable imperialistic concessions from an independent [the original is nezávislý, or independent, and the piece’s author, Eva Soukeníková, doesn’t use the term svrchovaný, or sovereign] country. To achieve their absurd and illegal goals, Russia’s current political leaders have caused a humanitarian catastrophe and do not refrain from committing war crimes. The opera takes place in this context and becomes a sensitive issue that cannot be enjoyed while disregarding these events or by pointing out that it is “just a fairy tale”’, writes Per Boye Hansen, the artistic director of the National Theatre, to staff members.
The management of the National Theatre has thus decided not to perform the upcoming opera Cherevichki in the next theater season. ‘We consider it completely inappropriate…to provide pro-Putin propaganda that allows for even the slightest possibility of abusing works of art to provide any justification whatsoever for the criminal intentions and actions of the Russian political leadership’, Hansen continues.
However, in the last paragraph of the internal communication, the artistic director emphasises that ‘doing so constitutes by no means a boycott of Russian arts and culture’. According to Hansen, [Russia] is ‘an integral part of the civilised world and world cultural heritage’.
‘The change in the draft dramaturgical plan, which has not yet been intended for publication, is an internal matter of the National Theatre’, added Tomáš Staněk, a spokesman for the National Theatre. ‘We stand with Ukraine and we respect the decision of the directors not to support the story of the “Great” Russian Empire’, he added.
‘It's an internal matter, but I’m quite glad it got [leaked] to the public out there. The discussion about what is acceptable in culture, and whether culture has a political role to play [in society], is important’, comments the chief dramaturg Ondřej Hučín for Seznam Zprávy.
‘I don't want to make the opera a culture that relates only to élite spheres and has nothing to do with anything else. This is not the case’, Hučín continues. The planned premiere next season already had a contracted conductor, soloists, and costumes, as well as a set design. At the time of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the playwright wondered if The Slippers were still ‘appropriate’ on the stage of the National Theatre. After a meeting with director Lukáš Trpišovský and other members of the production team, they unanimously agreed to cancel the production.
In the opinion, spokesmen Staněk and then Hučín point out the number of productions by Russian authors, which are still on the calendar, and will remain part of the schedule, of the National Theatre and its Opera and Ballet companies. They mention specifically performances of Dostoevsky’s Idiot, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and Prokofiev’s Cinderella.
I’ll restrict myself to a set of brief, if rhetorical, questions: following this ‘logic’ (sic), shouldn’t we kinda, you know, cancel Wagner’s operas because Adolf Hitler liked them?
If so, I move to similarly cancel vegetarianism, abstention, and no-smoking campaigns—for these were all similarly things Hitler endorsed. If you don’t believe me, here’s a wonderful snippet from To Be Or Not To Be, a 1942 movie directed by Ernst Lubitsch (synopsis via Wikipedia, the below dialogue is sourced from here)
Col. Ehrhardt: There’s something seriously wrong with a man who doesn’t drink or smoke.
Lt. Schultz: You mean our Führer?
Watch the movie, it’s hilarious, also, it might get cancelled before too long as well.