DISGRACED Georgian opera singer Tamar Iveri has announced a charity concert to benefit victims of violence in Georgia in an effort to mend her relationship with the LGBTI community.

Speaking in a joint press conference yesterday with Georgian LGBTI rights group Identoba, Iveri said that she would hold the benefit concert in the capital Tblisi on National Coming Out Day on October 11.

The soprano said the concert would be another way for her to make amends with the LGBTI community, which was targeted in homophobic comments via her social media page last year – comments that ultimately led to the cancellation of her Opera Australia contract for her performances in Otello following severe public backlash.

In the infamous social media post, Iveri likened the LGBTI community in her native Georgia to “fecal masses” and encouraged violence against them following a pride rally in Tbilisi.

When the comments emerged last month, Iveri blamed her husband for the remarks, saying that he used her Facebook account to express his own anti-gay views.

In a statement released yesterday by Identoba, the group said that Iveri had personally met with members and had a “detailed and friendly discussion” about the damage her comments had caused.

“Hate speech only incites hatred between diverse social groups and worsens the already difficult situation for marginalized individuals. Tamar Iveri agreed that violence against human right defenders is undoubtedly harmful and that hate speech is unacceptable in public life,” Identoba said.

“She expressed her deep concern for the pain that her Facebook statement caused to the LGBT individuals in Georgia and worldwide.”

During the press conference, Iveri said that the concert would be an apology and dedicated it to the victims of all kinds of violence. The soprano also called on other Georgian and international opera performers to also participate.

“This is to apologise and to express support,” Iveri said.

Identoba director Irakli Vacharadze was asked whether he believed Iveri’s contrition was sincere, or just a stunt to save her career.

“My perspective is that we don’t analyse the morals of others and allow everyone to apologise in a meaningful manner. Meaningful is the key here,”’ Vacharadze said.

Australian LGBTI rights advocate Simon Hunt, aka Pauline Pantsdown – who spearheaded the campaign against Iveri and her involvement with Opera Australia – told ArtsHub that he had doubts about her sincerity.

“My inclination is follow the lead of the Georgian LGBT activists – although doubting her sincerity, they see the proposed Tblisi benefit concert as being potentially useful in regards to the homophobia that they face in Georgian society. They have some understandable doubts as to whether or not she will follow through with her promises; and so any judgement should be reserved until after October 11th,” Hunt said.

“From my perspective, I understand their wariness – Iveri is simply not to be trusted. Her ongoing, constant denials that she has actually been sacked by three opera companies; and the unbelievable and ever-changing story as to the authorship of her offensive comments all add up to an essentially dishonest person who still sees these issues, at the core, being all about her career.

“Personally, I think that her comments last year were beyond redemption. I would never pay to see her on a stage, and I would resent any government-funded arts company paying her with my tax dollars.”

Identoba said that it was everyone’s responsibility to recognise and respect human rights but amends could not be made for all comments.

“As socially-marginalised groups are systematically deprived freedom of expression and have limited or no possibility to talk with the public about the discrimination they face, every step taken towards changing the culture of violence is very important,” Identoba said.

“In spite of this, we also recognise that it is impossible to compensate the harm homophobic statements caused to LGBT individuals.

“Acknowledgement (sic) how detrimental homophobia is… itself an important and a positive precedence and a great example of the support that benefits everyone.”

Questions have also been raised in Australia that Iveri’s contract for her role in an upcoming production of Tosca in Melbourne has not yet officially been cancelled.

However on Opera Australia’s website, Iveri’s name has been removed from the cast list and speaking to the Star Observer, a spokesperson for the company said the difficult nature of some contracts can require more time to cancel.

“We are still pursuing the same due process that we undertook in regards to Otello,” a spokesperson said.

Opera Australia also welcomed news of Iveri’s planned charity concert.



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