Theater goers booed and jeered famous Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki at an opera performance in Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater this weekend.
None of them, however, had anything against the Grammy-winning living classic of Polish music: the booers simply mistook Penderecki for Vladimir Churov, the head of the Russian Central Elections Commission.
Churov, a staunch ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, became one of the prime targets for the ire of the opposition-minded middle class after refusing to acknowledge widespread reports about violations at the December parliamentary elections, carried by Putin’s United Russia. Churov was widely lambasted in absentia at the mass protest rallies that followed the vote in Moscow.
Churov and Penderecki look vaguely similar, with white beards, receding hairlines and glasses, which accounts for the confusion at the performance of Rodion Shchedrin’s “Dead Souls” on Saturday, administration of the Golden Mask festival, which organized the performance, said on Facebook on Monday.
Spotting Penderecki in the theater box after the performance wrapped up, the spectators began to pepper him with shouts such as “Churov is today’s Chichikov!” and “Why the dead souls?” Both jeers were plays on “Dead Souls,” a 19-century satire that details the travels of adorable scam artist Chichikov in search of “dead souls,” or deceased serfs that could be pawned.
Neither Churov nor Penderecki publicly commented on the incident.
The story appears to be a reversal of a recent incident when an activist of a pro-Kremlin youth group harassed a passenger traveling to Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport by train, having mistaken him for opposition leader Boris Nemtsov.