Lection Connection - Spirit Sightings

November 25, 2018: Reign of Christ

From Sandra Rooney


Speaking truth to power can be a dangerous thing in any age. Among those who choose to speak and act on behalf of justice and compassion are artists, who are, in fact, often the most subversive in their approach. An interesting case in point is that of Kirill Serebrennikov, one of Russia’s leading stage and film directors. He has been under house arrest in Moscow for over a year, awaiting trial on corruption charges that his supporters see as political retaliation for producing a provocative work that raised the ire of Russia’s ruling elite.


Serebrennikov is accused of helping to embezzle state funds, a charge he calls nonsense. While he isn’t really considered a dissident activist, his plays and films have touched on sensitive topics in Russian society, including antisemitism, religious fanaticism, and sexism. Serebrennikov is known for edgy, contemporary stagings, including a version of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel that was a vicious satire about the current Russian elite, at the Bolshoi in 2011. Although subsequently produced, his production of Nureyev, a ballet of the life of Soviet dance star Rudolf Nureyev, was postponed at the last minute by the Bolshoi last year. Rumour has it that the production’s gay themes had offended the theater’s powerful patrons.


At the time of his arrest, Serebrennikov was preparing a new production of Così fan tutte to premiere at the Zurich Opera House. And here’s the unusual twist. As rehearsals for Così fan tutte got under way a few weeks ago, the production’s director was sitting more than 1,000 miles away, confined to his Moscow apartment. He is banned from using a telephone or the internet and can only converse with his lawyer, but he is allowed to use a computer. So, at the end of each rehearsal a video is sent to his lawyer, who puts it on a USB stick and delivers it to the director at his Moscow apartment. He sends back his written or video comments, again via the lawyer.


Two years ago, Andreas Homoki, director of the Zurich Opera, commissioned Serebrennikov to direct the new production of Così fan tutte. When the arrest took place Homoki assumed the detention would be temporary and decided to go ahead with the production. As the house arrest dragged on, he became increasingly worried. Although he had contacted another director if the case wasn’t settled by February, he ultimately decided to go ahead with Serebrennikov as director. And so that’s how it’s been since the rehearsals for Così fan tutte began. The show premiered earlier this month and will run through the early December.


Serebrennikov is well known for his efforts to rebuild a struggling Soviet theatre, and while he is not overtly political, those who know him say the trial is clearly connected to his work and the way he touches on matters of politics, personal life, and sexuality. According to Valery Pecheykin, a playwright at the Gogol Center, where Serebrennikov’s works are often produced, “Kirill always charted a course that was perpendicular to official cultural policy. He’s paying for that now.” 


Explore…John 18:33–37

  • In what ways do you think Jesus was speaking truth to power?
  • In what ways do you see people speaking truth to power today? What have been the consequences of their actions?
  • In what ways might each of us might be more forthright in addressing situations of injustice?



Holy God, your reign is one of justice, truth, and compassion. Give us the courage to speak for and act on behalf of your vision of love and grace with our whole lives. Amen.


Read more…

Send a question or note
[email protected]

Contact the Publisher