The Russian opera star – Anna Netrebko – is back – but not everything is the same – Culture


Russian soprano Anna Netrebko sings in the Paris Philharmonic. Before that, she, in turn, was emptied due to its proximity to the Kremlin. Has everything gone back to how it was before?

It is completely different when Anna Netrebko sang in Paris. As if there had been no war and she had not been silent for weeks. Netrebko, which celebrated its fiftieth birthday with 6000 guests at the Kremlin. At that time in the fall of 2021, it seemed appropriate to appear with Vladimir Putin.

Protests and applause

The concert, which was held last week in Paris, was accompanied by protests. She was a “collaborator” that the demonstrators in front of the Philharmonie de Paris read on signs. In the hall, a man complained loudly – perhaps in Ukrainian.

However, the protests were ineffective against the addiction to Netrebko’s beautiful voice. The ceremony began with thunderous applause.

Posts with Putin

Anna Netrebko’s affinity with Putin is documented in different ways: in photos and posts that she herself posted on social media. Netrebko also appears on lists of artists who have pledged their support to Vladimir Putin in an election process.

This is hard to digest in the West. When will the singer finally distance herself from Putin? When do you condemn the war in Ukraine?

For a long time did nothing – with the consequences. New York’s Metropolitan Opera dropped it from productions this year and next in March. Munich, Zurich, other opera houses and organizers have also distanced themselves from Netrebko.

“Between two chairs”

The turning point came on March 30: “I frankly condemn the war against Ukraine,” she wrote in a statement. It was then that Russia also broke up with its most famous singer: there were no concerts until further notice.

Netrebko sits “between two chairs,” Zeit wrote this week. It is not decisive enough for the West, it is very important for Russia. This is it. Netrebko has not distanced himself directly from Vladimir Putin. She is not alone in this.

What do the organizers do who “cancelled” the conductor of the orchestra Gergiev

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His case also made waves: the conductor of the Russian orchestra, Valery Gergiev, despite the ultimatum given to him by La Scala in Milan, decided not to distance himself from the Russian war of aggression and remained loyal to Putin.

What was it like for those festivals and concert halls that had originally planned for Gergiev to be the bandleader, music director, or opening party leader? Three examples:

Lucerne 1st Festival
At the end of February, the Lucerne Festival canceled the concerts of Valery Gergiev with the Mariinsky Orchestra planned for the summer.

Pianist Denis Matsuev, who also did not want to distance himself from the Russian government and the war, was disqualified soon after.

And the program of the summer festival “as a political declaration against Russian aggression” was expanded. The Young Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine will perform under the direction of its artistic director and founder Oksana Lenev.

2nd Verbier Festival
The Verbier Festival had relieved Valery Gergiev of his position as music director in early March and “paid all donations from persons approved by Western governments”.

Gyanandrea Nosida led Gergiev, including the opening ceremony with Ukrainian pianist Anna Federova and Russian and Ukrainian music.

The festival program is entitled “Peace, Solidarity and Inclusion”, but he still feels a commitment to Russian music. Many Russian composers such as Sergei Prokofiev or Rodion Shchedrin are represented in the program, as well as Russian translators.

3. Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Valery Gergiev was suspended from his position as principal conductor of the Munich Orchestra on 1 March – although it is held until 2025. With the successor still open, the orchestra works with the conductors changing.

It is no coincidence that the motto of the next season is “Transformations” and the opening concert on September 16 will be performed by Ukrainian maestro Oksana Lenev.

In an interview at the end of May, Munich culture official Anton Bebel said the strict separation between art and politics was no longer relevant. In choosing the new conductor, he is concerned not only with professionalism but also “to defend democracy, human dignity and personal rights”.

Nor did Gergiev act at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria or at La Scala in Milan. However, Grafenegg and Scala have no reference to Ukraine in their shows.

sign of fear

It is dangerous, she says, to distance yourself from the head of the Kremlin. Why? She told Le Monde newspaper. When asked to distance herself from Putin, she replied, “I have a Russian passport, and he’s still the president. I can’t utter these words in public.”

Netrebko lives with her family in Vienna. But one can certainly interpret such statements as a sign of fear.

War changes everyone. Not only an artist who previously lived quietly near the Kremlin and took advantage of the fact that “a lot has been done for the culture of Russia” in the past 20 years – since Putin took office.


Netrebko celebrated her fiftieth birthday in the Kremlin.

Keystone / Yuri Kochetkov

The war also changed the organizers. They must show their colors if they keep Russian artists like Netrebko on the schedule.

The Philharmonic defends itself

So Philharmonie de Paris felt compelled to issue a press release ahead of the Netrebko concert. They are against the war in Ukraine. Concerts with performers “connected to power: Valery Gergiev, Denis Matsuev, the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra, the Mariinsky Theatre, the Russian National Orchestra and the Music of Atarna” were cancelled.

In Netrebko, the house is now an exception. Because Netrebko is against war. Because she has lost her popularity in Russia and will not perform any concerts there until further notice.

Nor does it appear in this line of argument a departure from Putin. But that is exactly what matters, as we think in the West. At least for those of us who aren’t addicted to Netrebko’s beautiful voice.

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