Renowned Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has withdrawn from upcoming appearances with New York’s Metropolitan Opera and other scheduled performances this spring. The announcement came after increasing pressure on Netrebko and other Russian artists to denounce Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.
Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb was clear in a video statement he released on February 27, 2022.
“While we believe strongly in the warm friendship and cultural exchange that has long existed between the artists and artistic institutions of Russia and the United States,” Gelb said, “we can no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him.”
With conductor Valery Gergiev, a longstanding Putin supporter, already removed from the bill for upcoming concerts, pressure mounted on soprano Anna Netrebko to make a formal declaration. She responded by withdrawing from all engagements for the near future.
Netrebko was scheduled to appear in the upcoming Met productions of Puccini’s Turandot in April and May, along with Verdi’s Don Carlo next season.
“After careful consideration, I have made the extremely difficult decision to withdraw from concerts until further notice,” she said in a statement.
“This is not the right time for me to be performing and making music. I hope my audience will understand this decision,” she added.
In addition to her New York appearances, she was scheduled to perform in Milan and Zurich. Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, had called out to German audiences on social media to boycott her performance in Hamburg on March 2. That concert has been rescheduled for September 2022.
While Netrebko has not outright declared support for Putin’s offensive in Ukraine, she did take the step of travelling to Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, in 2015 to show support for pro-Russian separatists. She also publicly gave a cheque for ₽1,000,000.00 (about $21,500) to a pro-Russian leader.
On the same day as Gelb’s announcement, Netrebko made a statement on Instagram (which has since been deleted) that she was “opposed to this war” but would not take the step of denouncing Putin. “It’s not fair to force artists, or any other personality, to express their political opinions in public and denounce their homeland,” she wrote.
“I am not a political person. I am not a political expert. I am an artist and my aim is to unite people across the political divide” the singer wrote.
The Met goes on…
“It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera,” Gelb said in a statement. “Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine, there was no way forward.”
With the withdrawal of the Russian diva, her role in Turandot will be sung instead by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska. A replacement for the Don Carlo performances in the 2022-23 season will be announced at a future date.
Liudmyla Monastyrska has performed the role of Turandot previously at the Ukrainian National Opera and at the Bolshoi. With a career that has included appearances at La Scala, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, Berlin State Opera, and other of the world’s leading opera houses, she made her Met debut in 2012 in Aida. She has also sung the title role in Puccini’s Tosca, Santuzza in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, and Abigaille in Verdi’s Nabucco at the Met.
Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Turandot will be conducted by Marco Armiliato, featuring Yonghoon Lee as Calàf, Ermonela Jaho as Liù, and Ferruccio Furlanetto as Timur. Performances in New York run between April 30 and May 14; the May 7 matinée will be screened live around the world as part of the Met’s Live in HD series.
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