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Cyber Tournament Is Last Straw for Bishkek Opera Head

Traditionalists denounce decision, while others say the publicity can only benefit the venerable institution.

7 February 2019

Staging an esports event in Bishkek’s Neoclassical opera house proved to be a big mistake for the city’s opera chief.


Bolot Osmonov, the director of Opera and Ballet Theater, was dismissed on 31 January, apparently over his decision to rent out the hall for a national gaming tournament.


Bolot Osmonov. Image via NewTV KG/Youtube.


"Osmonov did not inform me about his intention to host cyber games in the theatre. I would not have given my consent," Culture Minister Azamat Zhamankulov told AFP.


Shortly after the house staged “The Nutcracker” and the day before a performance of “La traviata,” the fare on 19 January was radically different. Young men sat before monitors competing in the popular online multiplayer battle game Dota 2 as an audience mainly of other young men looked on.


The event’s sponsor, Russian mobile operator Beeline, put up a prize pool worth about $14,000, Global Voices writes.


Opera soloist Tair Beisheev was shocked. Interviewed at the gaming tournament, he said, “This is a place where great names, the sons and daughters of Kyrgyzstan performed, and now some terrible event, seemingly called ‘Dota’ is taking place here. Perhaps it’s me who has lost touch, or maybe it’s just some foolish generation that thinks this is acceptable. How did our government allow this?”


Esports-persons like the Kyrgyz Evgeny Ri can earn thousands of dollars a month playing tournaments around the world. “Ballet dancers in Kyrgyzstan's state troupe, meanwhile, are almost working for free,” an equation that proponents of classical art forms have to adapt to, Global Voices says.


Young Kyrgyz journalist Bektour Iskender cheered the event. “Hello?! A Dota tournament at the Opera and Ballet Theater is one of the coolest ways of advertising opera and ballet,” he wrote on Facebook.


Overcoming the financial constraints, and public anger over perceived mismanagement, the opera house “still puts on quality performances and retains a large and loyal – if somewhat ageing – following,” Global Voices says.



  • Dota 2 and other cyber sports aspire to become Olympic events. Last year McDonald’s announced it would end its partnership with the German national football team to concentrate on esports, AFP reports.


  • Former Kyrgyz National Philharmonic director Karimberdi Turapov was named as the new chief of the Opera and Ballet Theater, reports.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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