In a comment to LTV news program Panorama Culture Minister Dace Melbarde called the renting out of the hall to Russia’s controversial impresario “a regrettable act.”
“Any national institution must serve as a symbol. And it is regrettable that such events take place, that the LNO is forced to hire out rooms based on such questionable contracts,” she said.
All of the seats in the Grand Hall were removed for the festivities. Part of the donation will certainly be needed for repolishing the floor for the first time in over a decade. Also pressing is the need for new musical instruments in the orchestra – there isn’t enough state funding for that.
The Culture minister said she believes there needs to be an honest dialogue about what our national cultural institutions and their buildings mean to us, including a discussion of how to ensure sufficient financing from the state budget, without forcing them to earn the money themselves through various schemes.
Liepiņš termed the receipt of the sizable gift on Krutoy’s birthday as “a non-standard situation.”
“If it hadn’t been for this donation, the event would not have taken place at all. Krutoy wanted the hall for his party last year, too, but wasn’t able to agree to a deal with the management at the time,” the LNO director explained.
He went on to say that it is essential for the LNO to collect as much money as possible to keep up with its maintenance and not have to ask for great amounts of financing from the state budget at the end of the year, therefore such non-standard situations are provided for.
“This is a matter of attitude. Soon the LNO will host an event for the Jewish organization Šamir, from which we will earn €6,000 without any supplemental donations involved. At the same time it is clear that Šamir is not to be blamed for people getting killed in the Gaza sector, nor is Krutoy responsible for shooting down the Malaysian plane,” Liepiņš commented.
In response to Tuesday's media reports of the pending party being thrown by Krutoy, a flash mob calling itself “The Latvian National Opera is not the Kremlin’s Guest House” gathered briefly at the LNO building to protest its renting of the space to the popular Russian media mogul.
LNO board member Daina Markova confirmed that the cost of renting the Grand Hall totaled just under €10,000, but that the donation was arranged by the board when Krutoy first inquired about the date back in April, to which he readily agreed.
“How can you be sure that these particular persons are disloyal to the LNO? We have no such facts at our disposal. And who is to decide who is loyal to the LNO and who isn’t? We’re in the off-season right now. The opera needs resources to keep up its high artistic standards, this is purely an economic matter. We don’t assess people in terms of such categories,” she said.
Cultural sociologist Dagmara Beitnere suggested one should look more broadly at the issue – that this isn’t the first time the LNO is being rented out.
“With nothing but our song festivals we remain on the edge of the Russian empire as a tiny people. We are only complete as a nation with our national opera and national symphony orchestra. A national state is an expensive project. But we must look carefully where we tread, where we take part, what we support and what happens with our symbols,” Beitnere told Panorama.