By Francisco Salazar ( | First Posted: Aug 08, 2013 11:38 PM EDT

(Photo : Metropolitan Opera )

The Metropolitan Opera has issued a statement in response to an online petition criticizing the upcoming production of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin."

"The Met is proud of its history as a creative base for LGBT singers, conductors, directors, designers, and choreographers. We also stand behind all of our artists, regardless of whether or not they wish to publicly express their personal political opinions. As an institution, the Met deplores the suppression of equal rights here or abroad. But since our mission is artistic, it is not appropriate for our performances to be used by us for political purposes, no matter how noble or right the cause," reads the Met's statement. 

The petition organizers said they objected to the company employing Russian conductor Valery Gergiev and Russian soprano Anna Netrebko because the two artists had supported Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the past.

The controversy began after Putin signed an anti-gay law recently in Russia. The petition by Andrew Rudin explains: "Peter Illyich Tchaikowsky is the beloved composer most widely known to have been homosexual and to have suffered for it in his lifetime. For America's leading opera house to open its season with one of his works, performed by a conductor and a leading soprano who support Putin's recent laws against homosexual people and those who support them dishonors the work of a great artist and his legacy as well as the progress made in our own country to secure equality for all citizens."

The petition also calls for the Met to dedicate the performance in support of the LGBT community.

"Eugene Onegin" will open the Met on Sept. 23. The production is a co-production with the English National Opera and is being directed by actress Fiona Shaw. Piotr Beczala and Mariusz Kwiecien also star.

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