(NEW YORK) — After a chaotic week, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has withdrawn from performances at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera House.
“It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera,” Met Opera general manager Peter Gelb said in a statement Thursday. “Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine, there was no way forward.”
On Sunday, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Gelb posted a message to the Met’s social media saying, “We can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him — not until the invasion and killing has been stopped, order has been restored and restitutions have been made.”
The statement was met with confusion from some specifically because Netrebko — who has previously voiced support for Putin and in 2014 supported the arts in the separatist region of Ukraine — has become a widely recognized face of the Met over the last two decades, including opening the season several years in a row. She was set to perform in the Met’s “Turandot” later in the spring and was scheduled to perform in the 2022-23 season, which the Met announced Feb. 23.
The Met’s message now that she has been withdrawn from performances after “not complying with the Met’s condition that she repudiate her public support for Vladimir Putin while he wages war on Ukraine,” is sending loud reverberations through the industry.
In a series of Instagram posts over the weekend, Netrebko called for peace and voiced her opposition to the war, but did not mention Putin.
“Forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right. This should be a free choice. Like many of my colleagues, I am not a political person. I am not an expert in politics. I am an artist and my purpose is to unite people across political divides,” she wrote on an Instagram post Saturday.
She went on to say in an Instagram story, “It’s especially despicable from people from the West, seated comfortable in their home, not fearing for their lives, to pretend to be brave and pretending to ‘fight’ by putting in trouble artists who asked nothing.”
Netrebko’s Instagram, where she has over 750,000 followers, was later set to private.
Netrebko’s withdrawal from the Met, which includes the “Turandot” this spring as well as a “Don Carlo” in the next season, comes as Russian conductor Valery Gergiev faces similar career impacts from the invasion. He was replaced in a series of Vienna Philharmonic concerts at New York City’s Carnegie Hall last week and fired as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic after also refusing to denounce Putin.
The two — who are among the most globally famous classical artists currently performing — have faced, and stand to face, further repercussions as the opera and classical industry take stands against the Russian invasion.
Polish tenor Piotr Beczała, Latvian mezzo Elīna Garanča and Georgian mezzo Anita Rachvelishvili all announced they would not be performing in Russia, with Rachvelishvili calling Putin a “dictator” who “is killing our people.”
“I am not a politician and I have no influence on political decisions. But I am an artist and I can use my voice to express my opposition to the war that takes place just across the border of my beloved motherland,” Beczała wrote.
Russian American conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, music director of the Chicago Opera Theater, wrote on Twitter that she was “terrified for all my family and friends in Ukraine, where I spent so many happy summers as a child.”
Finnish soprano Karita Mattila also took to Twitter with a memory: “I refused to perform with (Maestro) Gergiev in 2014 at Carnegie Hall concert because he publicly supported Russian invasion of Crimea. I wanted to show solidarity towards my Ukrainian colleagues. My action had long lasting consequences: I received threats.”
Netrebko has brushed controversy before, both with her 2014 actions and with her opinions on skin-darkening makeup. Gelb told The New York Times it’s “hard to imagine a scenario in which (Netrebko) will return to the Met,” a stunning remark given her staying power at the house that made her an international star.
The Met on Monday opened its first opera after a scheduled monthlong break with a performance of the Ukrainian national anthem.
For the springtime “Turandot,” Netrebko will be replaced by Liudmyla Monastyrska — a Ukrainian soprano.
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