Russian opera singer sacked for not denouncing Putin
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has quit New York’s Metropolitan Opera after management ordered her to “repudiate her public support” for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Amid a wave of anti-Russian sentiment in the west following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Netrebko is not the only high culture figure left suddenly unemployed.
In a statement on Thursday, the iconic opera company said that Netrebko had “withdrawn from her upcoming Met performances” in Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ and Verdi's ‘Don Carlo,’ after “not complying” with the firm’s demand that she “repudiate her public support for Vladimir Putin.”
Two days earlier, Netrebko made a post on Instagram calling on Russia to end what she called “this senseless war of aggression” in Ukraine, referring to the Russian military’s ongoing military operation to disarm and neutralize Ukraine by force.
However, management at the Met wanted the Russian diva to go a step further and personally denounce Putin, with a source telling the Guardian that the company pressured her several times to do so.
“It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb. “Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine, there was no way forward.”
Netrebko, who has starred in nearly 200 performances at the Met, will be replaced in ‘Turandot’ by Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, while a replacement for her role in ‘Don Carlo’ has yet to be announced.
Netrebko received the People’s Artist of Russia honor from Putin in 2008, and in 2014 donated a million roubles (then $18,500) to rebuild the Donetsk Opera House, which was damaged in fighting between pro-independence and Ukrainian forces. Although Netrebko received some criticism in the west for posing with separatist leaders in Donetsk, she insisted that she had “nothing to do with politics.”
In addition to the harsh economic sanctions levied on Russia by the US and EU, private firms and organizations have announced their own anti-Russia crackdowns. Amid a flight of western brands from Russia, stores in the US pulled Russian vodka from their shelves, the International Cat Federation banned Russian-bred and Russian-owned cats from its exhibitions, and Russian-owned businesses around the world have been targeted by vandals.
Netrebko is not the only icon of Russian high culture to lose her job in this climate. Conductor Valery Gergiev was fired from his job at the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra earlier this week after he refused a request by Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter to “clearly and unequivocally distance himself from the brutal war of aggression that Putin is waging against Ukraine.”
Gergiev, an associate of Putin, had earlier been declared unwelcome by venues around the world, including New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Edinburgh Festival.