Security guards asked four gay rights demonstrators attending the opening night gala of The Metropolitan Opera in New York City after one of them shouted as the lights dimmed in the house.
An unidentified man shouted at the performance on Sept. 23 that Vladimir Putin should end his "war on Russian gays," a reference to the anti-gay laws the Russian president has enacted this year.
Outside the opening night gala, other gay rights demonstrators held a banner: "Support Russian Gays."
The Met opened its season with Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" featuring Russian stars Valery Gergiev and Anna Netrebko.
The disruption was not unexpected.
Last week, the Met issued a statement that it supported equality for all and opposed intolerance everywhere – including Russia but also including the United States.
In an opinion piece for Bloomberg, Met general manager Peter Gelb added, "While I’m confident that many members of our company join me in personally deploring the tyranny of Russia’s new anti-gay laws, we’re also opposed to the laws of the 76 countries that go even further than Russia in the outright criminalization of homosexuality.
"We stand against the significant human rights abuses that take place every day in many countries. But as an arts institution, the Met is not the appropriate vehicle for waging nightly battles against the social injustices of the world.
Over the course of our nine-month season, artists from dozens of different countries – some with poor human rights records – will be performing at the Met. If we were to devote tonight’s performance to Russian injustice, how could we possibly stop there?"
Netrebko, in an interview with The AP earlier this month, said she has never discriminated against anyone.
Some activists in the United States and elsewhere have called for a boycott of Russian products and also raised the prospect of boycotting the Winter Olympics that will take place in Russia in early 2014.