Gay composer featured at Tulsa Ballet

By Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

Most historians agree that Pyotr (Peter) Tchaikovsky was gay. But in a 2013 biopic about the world-famous composer, a Russian newspaper reported that the biopic wouldn’t focus on his sexuality because “it is far from a fact that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual,” The New York Times reported in 2013.

Tchaikovsky is best-known for having composed two of the most quintessentially Russian ballets — Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

Tulsa Ballet will perform a full-length ballet on the life of this famous composer. The World Premiere of Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music will be held March 29-31 in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

“Tulsa Ballet has commissioned a brand-new full-length ballet on the life of the famed composer, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,” said Scott Black, Tulsa Ballet managing director. “It will be choreographed by Ma Cong, a Chinese native, now living in Oklahoma as an out gay man with his husband and twin sons.”

Black also lives in Oklahoma as an openly gay man.

“The fact that this story is being told in Tulsa, Oklahoma - considered by most to be the ‘buckle of the bible belt’-  is a testament to how the performing arts can help start conversations for the need to change society's views,” he added. “Tchaikovsky was a homosexual in 19th century Russia, but his life story draws many parallels to today's society." 

Most of the world knows of Tchaikovsky from his ballet music that was written over 100 years ago.

"Christmas would not be complete without the Russian Dance or the Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker playing throughout department stores or used in television commercials.

“Yet, the real story of Tchaikovsky's life is somewhat controversial and rarely told," Black said.

The history of Tchaikovsky's homosexuality was suppressed in Russia by the Soviets, and it has only recently become widely known in post-Soviet Russia, according to The Atlantic.

A biography written by Roland John Wiley was published in 2009 claiming some of those mysteries are no more than myths. For instance, Wiley points out that Tchaikovsky was openly gay all his life, to the point that he feminized the names of the young men he consorted with, and indeed his own. He once signed a letter to his brother as “Petrolina.” His brother was also gay.

Black said most history books say Tchaikovsky died of Cholera, but there is also a theory that Tchaikovsky was forced to commit suicide by a “court of honor” made up of his former classmates. His suicide was purportedly out of fear that his homosexuality would be exposed, something that was not tolerated in 19th century Russia, and it is not tolerated in Russia in this century.

“The fact that no one really knows the truth, or dares to come forward with it, over 100 years later is what makes this story so intriguing,” Black explained. “It's also unfortunate that we can draw parallels to present day society, as homosexuality is still a criminal offense in 73 countries around the world. 

“Meanwhile, LGBT teens have suicide rates almost five times higher than their heterosexual peers.”

The World Premiere of Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music will be held March 29-31 in Tulsa Oklahoma at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. For tickets and more information, visit and search Tchaikovsky.

Copyright The Gayly. 3//24/2019 @ 8:28 a.m.