Taking the fight for believers’ rights to new extremes, Christian activists in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia successfully sought a ban on the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, media reported on Saturday.
An appeal, signed by 18 local residents, cited a new bill criminalizing offence of religious sentiment, though it is still pending parliamentary review, Fontanka.ru news Web site said.
The local philharmonic hall, which was to host the performance by St. Petersburg-based Rock Opera theater on Oct. 18, complied with the complaint, pulling tickets from sale, Lifenews.ru tabloid said.
The decision may be reversed after the prosecutors review the complaint next week, Komsomolskaya Pravda daily said.
“We think Christ’s character is misinterpreted in the play from a Christian point of view,” one of the 18 complainants told Independent-news.ru, without providing his name.
The performance “should have been approved by the [Moscow] Patriarchate,” he added. “You can’t say that an opera strengthens faith. A true believer would have attended a mass instead of a play.”
The musical was actually sanctioned by the Russian Orthodox Church during its premiere in Russia in 1990, the theater said on its Web site.
Rostov church hierarchs distanced themselves from the attack on the play, saying it was a private initiative whose originators should have consulted with priests before proceeding with it, Lifenews.ru said.
Rock Opera presented their rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous musical from 1970 to Rostov-on-Don audiences four times before without any incidents. The play was sold out every time, and more than half of the seats for the Oct. 18 performance went away before the ban, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.
Ultraconservative activism has been on the rise in Russia in recent months, which most analysts put down to strengthening of the alliance between the Kremlin and church leadership. Christian activists have attacked supporters of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot in the streets and sought a ban on a dairy brand that sported a rainbow in its design, calling it promotion of LGBT lifestyle.
Jesus Christ Superstar has been a staple of the Russian musical scene ever since the perestroika. It was never banned in the country before, but several cities in the neighboring Belarus prohibited the performance as “blasphemous” in February, also on believers’ complaints.