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Anna Netrebko, a Russian star tied to Putin, is out at the Metropolitan Opera

Soprano Anna Netrebko, performing in Vienna, Austria in 2019.
Hans Punz
AFP via Getty Images
Soprano Anna Netrebko, performing in Vienna, Austria in 2019.

The Metropolitan Opera in New York City announced Thursday that soprano Anna Netrebko, a Russian star and one of the Met's marquee artists, will not appear there in upcoming months, due to her failure to distance herself from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Sunday, the Met's general manager, Peter Gelb, said that the house would no longer work "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."

Netrebko has figured prominently at the Met during Gelb's tenure. In Thursday's announcement, Gelb called her "one of the greatest singers in Met history," but added, "with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine, there was no way forward."

The Met is one of the premier opera houses in the world and the largest performing arts institution in the U.S.

Netrebko has been associated with Putin for decades. In 2012, she endorsed his election, and said in a 2011 interview with Newsweek that she wished that she had had the chance to be Putin's lover, as she admired his "strong, male energy." Not long after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Netrebko (who became a citizen of Austria in 2006) gave a monetary donation to the opera house in Donetsk, in the care of a pro-Russian separatist leader, Oleg Tsaryov. They were photographed together holding a Russian separatist flag.

Over the past several days, Netrebko has also been dropped or has withdrawn from planned performances at several other significant international opera houses, including La Scala in Milan; the Zurich Opera in Switzerland; and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Within the Zurich press announcement, Netrebko said: "This is not a time for me to make music and perform. I have therefore decided to take a step back from performing for the time being."

In the days leading up to Thursday's announcement, Gelb had indicated publicly that it was unlikely that the Met would reach a resolution with Netrebko. In an interview published Tuesday, Gelb told The New York Times, "In the case of somebody who is so closely associated with Putin, denouncing the war is not enough."

Over the past several days, Netrebko made several posts and stories on Instagram that had varied in tone. In one post, she said she opposed the invasion, but in an accompanying story (which vanished within 24 hours), she called people from the West seeking repudiations of Putin hypocrites and "human s***s" who "are as evil as blind agressors [sic]."

In another recent Instagram post, she published a photo of herself with conductor Valery Gergiev, who mentored her and helped introduce her to international audiences. Gergiev has been an active supporter and friend of Putin since the early 1990s.

Since then, Netrebko has made her Instagram profile private.

Most immediately, Netrebko will be replaced at the Met by a Ukrainian soprano, Liudmyla Monastyrska, in performances of Puccini's opera Turandot, beginning April 30. The Met has not yet announced a new soprano for the performances of Verdi's Don Carlo, which Netrebko had been slated to appear in starting in November, during the company's 2022-23 season.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.
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