Stage performance of the seminal rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar was banned in several Belarussian cities as blasphemous and anti-Christian this week, 41 years after its international theatrical premiere.
The play, to be presented by St.Petersburg-based theater Rock Opera, sparked the ire of Orthodox Christian communities in the cities of Gomel, Mogilyov, Brest and Minsk, local news website Region.ej.by said.
The play is a sacrilege because it paints Judas in a sympathetic light and because Jesus Christ is no superstar artist, according to an open letter sent by Mogilyov’s Christian community to the regional authorities, the report said.
“Christians never blow up anything, which is why they can be used for boosting one’s self-esteem on their account,” Gomel monk Nikolai Tarasenko said in an editorial in Belarussian edition of Komsomolskaya Pravda daily, explaining what prompted the Christian community to demand the ban.
Rock Opera was set to tour Belarus with “Jesus Christ Superstar” throughout this week, which is the first week of Lent in Orthodox Christian church.
It remained unclear who ordered the ban. Gomel authorities said it was the theater’s decision, while Rock Opera said on its website it was forced by regional authorities to drop the performance on short notice.
The theater said it only had the time to provide a substitute in Brest, where it performed “Orpheus and Eurydice” instead. The Soviet-era production from 1975, based on an ancient Greek myth, raised no objections.
“Jesus Christ Superstar,” a work by Antony Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, was initially released as an album in 1969 and premiered on Broadway in 1971. It was banned in the Soviet Union, but became one of the most popular musicals in the post-Soviet cultural space after the USSR’s demise.