| QUE JONES
THE PAST MONTH marked the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Russia spent an exuberant amount of money, more than previous years combined, to host the winter games. The opening ceremonies were a spectacular display of lights and athletes all accompanied by beautiful music. While the world spotlight has illuminated this Far East country, not all has been good. We are all familiar with the travesty happening currently with homosexuality in Russian culture. Many fought to pull the games from Russia altogether. Yet Russia shone a light on its past during the opening ceremonies, a light led by a flaming bird and two historically great men, one of whom happened to be homosexual.
The Firebird Overture written by Stravinsky permeated the entire opening ceremonies. This work about death and rebirth, written in the early 20th century, meant a lot to the composer. Stravinsky was not gay, but he was a firm believer in modern ideals and art. Stravinsky’s early music had an early cry for freedom and interestingly enough this was his only music written while in Russia. Stravinsky lived in Russia until he was 28. He then lived in Switzerland and France for 29 years and spent his final 32 years in the U.S. Filled with Russian folk songs, The Firebird, tells a story of the world being destroyed and reborn in the flames. Many historians believe this was a reference to the political turmoil in Russia, and this turmoil inevitably led to Stravinsky abandoning his homeland. Stravinsky started his career idolizing the music of Tchaikovsky.
Tchaikovsky, as you may remember, was a homosexual in 19th century Russia. He is also one of the Great Russian composers and is considered one of the greatest romantics to ever live. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, many Columbus residents may be familiar with this work due to BalletMets’ yearly performances, was also heavily featured during the Sochi Olympic’s opening ceremonies. Why would a country so fervently speaking out against homosexuals feature a man who was a homosexual? Tchaikovsky’s brother, Modest, was an openly gay male who resided with his boyfriend Kolia at the end of the 19th century. Today he would be imprisoned and his property seized by the government.
While Russia was removing rights from homosexuals, both those native to Russia and international visitors for the games, remember they were also very proud of their classical culture – a culture filled with great artists whom, importantly, also happen to be gay.
A BREIF HISTORY
Author | Que Jones