Getting the Hook: The Met Cancels Opera Singer for Refusing to Condemn Putin

“It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera.” Those words from the Metropolitan Opera Manager Peter Gelb makes it sound like soprano Anna Netrebko has died or lost her voice in some accident. In reality, Netrebko was cancelled for failing to denounce Vladimir Putin. As with the criminalization of support for Putin in some countries, the termination of Netrebko is an attack on free speech. It is perfectly bizarre for the Met to stand against tyranny by attacking free speech, the very right that combats tyranny in all forms. This is not just the day that the music died for Netrebko, it is the day that free speech died at the Met.

Despite my strong support for Ukraine and condemnation of Putin, it is important for advocates of civil liberties and free speech to be vigilant in calling out such abusive measures. It is during wartime and periods of social discord that the greatest abuses can occur for those with dissenting or unpopular views.

Before addressing this latest controversy, it is also important to respond to rather fowhat has become a rationalization on the left for attacks on free speech in recent years: the First Amendment only protects speech from government crackdowns. The First Amendment is not the full or exclusive embodiment of free speech. It addresses just one of the dangers to free speech posed by government regulation. Many of us view free speech as a human right. Corporate censorship of social media clearly impacts free speech, and replacing Big Brother with a cadre of Little Brothers actually allows for far greater control of free expression.

As I have noted earlier, while liberal writers and artists were blacklisted and investigated in the 1950s, liberal activists have succeeded in censoring opposing views to a degree that would have made Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) blush. Rather than burn books, they have simply gotten stores to ban them or blacklist the authors and artists.

For these companies, there is no value to protecting the speech rights of dissenting voices with powerful politiciansacademics, and even some in the media demanding more censorship.

Now back to the Met. According to media reports, Met officials “made several attempts to convince Netrebko, who has made statements critical of the war, to rebuke Putin but failed to persuade the singer.” That sounds a lot like coerced speech: say these words or you can no longer sing at the Met. That sounds a lot like something Putin is doing in Russia as we speak. Saying that “well, we are not Putin” is not enough when you are acting in the same way by punishing political viewpoints.

Netrebko has had 192 performances at the Metropolitan Opera and is one of the world’s most celebrated singers. Did she lose the ability to hit such high notes due to the low note she strikes on politics?

Other Russians have faced backlash over their past praising of Putin or failure to condemn him now. One such example is Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin. Frankly, I have never been a fan of Ovechkin not only because I am a Blackhawks fan but he has previously praised this blood-soaked tyrant. Like Netrebko, he has appeared in pictures with Putin.  However, I would be the first to oppose any effort to bar him from the ice due to his political views (as tempting as they may be at the next game against Chicago). Unlike the Met, hockey officials generally supported the players.

Yet, Gelb bizarrely says “Anna is one of the greatest singers in Met history, but with Putin killing innocent victims in Ukraine, there was no way forward.” No way forward? How about a free speech path where you allow an artist to perform for her art alone. Gelb and others can then use their free speech to condemn Putin or criticize Netrebko without silencing her on the stage.

Netrebko has publicly stated that “I am opposed to this senseless war of aggression, and I am calling on Russia to end this war right now to save all of us. We need peace right now.” Even that statement should not be necessary as a condition for her to perform. Are all opera singers now expected to repeat mantra-like the view of the Met or the majority?

When many artists opposed the Vietnam War, there was widespread support for their free speech rights in opposing blacklisting. The same was true during the McCarthy period. Now, the very same people who celebrate such struggles as defining moments in our history are seeking to cancel artists for their political views. In this case, Netrebko is not even being targeted for saying something offensive but rather for not repeating the position of the majority on the war. Years ago, I wrote that there was a dangerous trend toward compelled speech: “The line between punishing speech and compelling speech is easily crossed when free speech itself is viewed as a threat.” We appear to have crossed that line.

In the end, the Met succeeded in silencing a talented artist because she would not use her voice to support the view of the majority. In doing so, the Met embraced orthodoxy over art.

I have previously noted that the growing anti-free speech movement among artists and writers is self-destructive. Artists against free speech is like athletes against fitness.  Artists need free speech to be able to create and perform freely. To see artists leading an anti-free speech movement is a form of self-condemnation.

182 thoughts on “Getting the Hook: The Met Cancels Opera Singer for Refusing to Condemn Putin”

  1. “Biden is withholding details of ‘secret agreement’ Russians proposed to Iran: Reps demand to see details of interim nuclear proposal and warn president must end his ‘simultaneous surrender to Russia and Iran before it’s too late’”

    “‘This is a secret agreement. We haven’t seen it,’ said Rep. Michael McCaul”

  2. Who is colluding with the Russians? It sounds like Putin and Biden are buddies, despite what Biden says publically.

    “The White House may soon celebrate an Iran Deal that gives Putin more power to hurt America. Reports suggest Iran would send enriched uranium stockpiles to Russia on condition Russia would return the stockpile if US reimposes terrorism sanctions. That should play well.”

  3. The absurd irony of the leftist cancel culture is that they voted for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including all the leftists posting on this message board. They voted for the Russian invasion when they voted for Joe Biden. If they had voted for Trump, Russia never would have invaded Ukraine. The Biden difference is that his Administration altered Trump’s pro-America energy policies to an anti-America energy policy, which, of course, dramatically improved Russia’s financial fortunes, since higher oil and gas prices greatly enriched Russia. Ever wonder why Russia invaded Crimea while Biden was Vice President and then invaded Ukraine when Biden became President, but did no invasions while Trump was President. Wonder no more. Follow the money trail. Wars are expensive and have to be financed somehow. The Biden Administration helped Russia to finance this invasion. Will the leftists come clean and admit their vital role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Of course not. Leftists are proud of their falsehoods and hypocrisies.

  4. Here’s that “madman” Putin explaining the value of culture, traditions and religion and the need to preserve that which you are. Oh he’s totally deranged alright. Ignore the balanced, rational discussion – it perfectly hides a Mr. Hyde figure. That’s what our honest press tell us anyhow:

  5. And just like that, we find out why the Left hate Putin and call him a “madman.” Crazy like a fox. He sees right through them and their mulitculturalism nonsense:

    1. That interview is from 2019.

      Putin is a ruthless dictator. That you laud him is despicable.

        1. I haven’t ever lauded Biden (or Harris, for that matter). But don’t let facts get in the way of your delusion.

          1. That is good, but you have severely and unjustifiably criticized Trump while not saying much about Biden. Relatively, that makes your actions similar to lauding Biden.

      1. Aninny:

        Putin is a popularly elected government head who won with 76% of the vote. He’s not a Communist. Elections in Russia are not without problems but then again neither are ours. Based on his Youtube comments, I find him rational. You don’t like his policies or more accurately his strength in promoting his policies, so to you he’s ruthless. Seems to me that the same problem you had with Trump when you called him a Nazi. I call ’em like I see ’em. This guy isn’t crazy; he’s determined to win this dispute.

        1. I haven’t ever called Trump a Nazi.

          I’ve repeatedly called Trump a malignant narcissist, a gaslighter, a con artist, a pathological liar, and some other things.

          Putin is also a malignant narcissist. He’s a dictator who has poisoned some of his adversaries and has launched an unprovoked war where he’s murdering Ukrainians. It’s disgusting that you laud him. I never thought well of you, but I hadn’t ever realized just how truly awful your values are.

            1. Amid Ukraine crisis, Biden partnering with Russia to revive Iran deal

              “As President Biden condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and publicly threatens Moscow with escalating punitive measures, his administration is quietly collaborating with the Russians to revive the Iran nuclear deal and undermine future U.S. presidents who might withdraw from it, according to experts and former U.S. officials.”

          1. Aninny:
            You don’t need a blog, you need a church. Moralizing like that needs a pulpit and sermon that soars with the sanctimony. I’m not Putin’s cheerleader just an unbiased observer armed with some historical perspective. I find Putin loathsome but far less so than the radical left in our own country who despise everyone and everything American. Putin may be ruthless but he’s ruthless in service to his country’s interests – a common flaw among most every country’s leaders excepting our current crop of foreign affairs amateurs, grifters and chicken hawks.

  6. The West’s cancel culture itself, is s reason to give Putin a pass.
    My hat is off to this cancelled opera singer.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “Members of Trump’s Campaign colluded with Russian agents: Manafort with Kilimnik, and Stone with Guccifer 2. I don’t know whether Trump himself colluded with Putin, but we all know that Trump publicly asked Russia to help him, and Russia did help him.”

    And as long as there is breath in us, we will never allow Trumpists to get away with their lies. They cannot shut us up nor shout us down. We will always remind them that they are liars.

    1. where is that quote excerpted from? Ever hear of the Mueller report? This “RUSSIA RUSSIA” craziness is over. Story’s been told. How about this-we’ll let J6 go, you let this go? Fair enough?

      1. Jeff was quoting me.

        I’ve read a lot of the Mueller Report. I’ve also read parts of the bipartisan SSCI Report on Russian Interference in the 2016 Election (here’s the most relevant volume: and parts of the DNI’s reports on Russian election interference.

        I have no intention of “letting go” of criminal activity that harms our country. Russian election interference did that, and so did the criminal activity related to Jan. 6.

        You are of course free to let go of whatever you wish.

      2. Dan Smith,

        In a word- NEVER! We NeverTrumpers are like the Ukrainians. They will never submit to Putinism, and we will never submit to Trumpism unless at the point of a gun. You hear me?

  8. Jonathan: Everyone believes in free speech. Your claim it is a “human right” is not new. That right is contained in Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The only problem is that you apply that right selectively. When conservative legislators and school boards in Texas, Tennessee and elsewhere tell teachers what they can and cannot discuss with students that’s censorship. When books are banned that’s censorship. But you have said nothing about this serious threat to free speech. The allusion to Joe McCarthy is interesting. I think McCarthy would have endorsed teacher censorship and book banning because, although his cause was to root out “Communists” in the State Department and elsewhere in the government, he would have approved stamping out “Communist” influence in the schools. The ghost of McCarthy is still with us in states like Texas and Tennessee.

    On the issue of freedom of the press you are encouraging the conservative SC to overturn the “public figure” provision in NY Times v. Sullivan. In your 2/19/22 post you say “a little liability may now be just what journalism needs”. What would that actually mean for our free press and free speech? If the few cases involving Donald Trump and Kevin Nunes are any indication it would be a disaster. Trump filed defamation lawsuits against the NYTimes and Washington Post because he didn’t like their unflattering coverage of him. He lost both times. That was a victory for free speech. When Trump couldn’t prevail in the courts he used his executive power to silence dissent within his administration. He censored what the CDC could say to the public and fired anyone who disagreed with his policies. That was a victory for censorship. Don’t recall you complaining back then. Kevin Nunes just lost another defamation case (one of many) against Liz Mair, a GOP strategist, and the Fresno Bee. Like Trump, Nunes sues to bully and intimidate simply to prevent unflattering coverage in the future. That’s not good for the free press in this country whose job is to uncover corruption and wrongdoing by presidents and administrations. If what you are urging were to occur that would mean open season on reporters and their employers. That’s what happens in Hungary, in Turkey and in Putin’s Russia. Do you want this in the land of freedom?

    1. Dennis, you are absolutely right about Turley’s inconsistent position in, on the one hand, advocating for robust freedom of speech and, on the other hand, arguing that the “public figure” protection of the press should be overturned. If the public figure protection of the media is overturned, there will be much less robust speech. Turley – You should reconsider your erroreous position that would greatly inhibit freedom of the press.

      1. RDKAY/JeffSilberman: Prof. Turley often takes contradictory positions hoping we won’t notice. In the Clinton impeachment Turley argued that leaving DNA on Monica’s dress and lying about it was an impeachable offense. He said at the time that Clinton “deprived himself of the perceived legitimacy to govern”. But when Turley testified before the House Judiciary Committee in the first Trump impeachment he said: “I’m concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachments, but would create a dangerous precedent…”. This in spite of the fact that Trump tried to bribe and extort the president of Ukraine for political purposes. BRIBERY is clearly set out in the Constitution as an impeachable offense. Turley was the only legal “expert” to oppose impeachment of Trump. He was outgunned by the other 3 constitutional scholars on the panel that testified.

        During the confirmation battle over Justice Sotomayor’s nomination Turley said he read 30 of Sotomayor’s previous decisions and concluded she lacked the “intellectual depth” to be on the Court. He didn’t say this about Brett Kavanaugh who, with all his other baggage, was least qualified by “intellectual depth” to qualify for the Court. Notice also that in the debate over Judge Jackson’s nomination Turley doesn’t attack her for any lack of “intellectual depth”–for obvious reasons. So, instead, Turley is claiming Jackson should be disqualified if she doesn’t state in advance she will recuse herself in the racial discrimination case against Harvard soon to come before the Court. Turley ignores the fact that Clarence Thomas has blatant conflicts of interest in this case. This is Turley’s often slight of hand. He hopes no one will notice Thomas’ conflicts and focus instead on his unsubstantiated assertions about Judge Jackson’s alleged conflicts of interest–hoping his argument will give cover to Republican Senators who will vote against Jackson’s confirmation.

        And, of course, Turley is a paid “legal analyst” for Fox. Turley knows what is expected–to distract and dissemble– to present the appearance of legal objectivity while spouting the Fox line of the day. Turley is no mere “academic” but a partisan hack. So the next time you read Turley’s next post don’t be taken in by Turley’s scholarly grift. Somehow I know you won’t.

    2. Dennis,

      Good post. If the SC lowers the standard of intent from actual malice to negligence with respect to public figures, this change would bode ill for Turley’s Fox News since it and its TV hosts are being sued by public figures, Smartmatic and Dominion (though they argue that they are private figures).

      For those wanting to follow the progress of Smartmatic’s and Dominion’s defamation lawsuits against those media figures and networks which pushed the Big Lie, check these links:

      Because, regrettably, there is a news blackout at those networks about these lawsuits. Even our own intrepid legal analyst has self-censored ALL coverage of these defamation lawsuits (apart from one brief passing mention months ago). It’s understandable that Turley would not wish to highlight the humiliating fact that the network for which he works is being sued for “advocacy journalism” in trying to falsely claim that there was hanky panky in the vote counting.

      In fact, I would not be surprised if Turley could be deposed as a material witness. Did he warn Fox’s producers that the assertions of fact being made by its TV hosts were dubious at best, just like those around Trump who insisted that his claim of massive voter fraud was bullsh*t?

  9. Hullbobby says:

    “I hate when fake intellectuals like JeffSilberman equate America with fascists or communists abroad.”

    Swing and a miss. Jerry said that, not I. The idea that there are 2 Silbermans by name on this forum must chill you lying Trumpists to the bone.

    For the record, I reject what Jerry says. I have never made a moral equivalence between America and fascists. Unlike you Trumpists, I was appalled when Trump claimed that America was no different than Russia:

    “Trump, Challenged About Putin, Says ‘Our Country’s So Innocent?’

    “Trump made the comments in an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly which will air Sunday, after O’Reilly called Putin “a killer.”

  10. Wake up and smell the coffee.

    WWIII has begun; its conclusion has yet to be determined.

    “Pac Man” Putin has painted himself into a corner; he has no choice.

    Putin can NEVER have a NATO member, or otherwise democratic state, on his border.

    After Ukraine, there is the next NATO/democratic state, and so on, and so on, and so on.

    Putin must eat up Europe completely.

    There is no hope of Western/NATO neutrality and non-involvement, and there is no alternative to the vigorous Western/NATO defense of Ukraine.

    Shall we watch the destruction of a country and the heinous, bloody slaughter of innocents, of women and children, everyday on the nightly news?

    America and Russia are eyeball to eyeball and America is Blinken.

  11. Kinda difficult to think she would directly condemn the Moscow Madman and then return to her place in Saint Petersburg without facing repercussions. In all likelihood in a short period of time she’d be singing the Gulag Concerto in D-minor.

  12. I read Orwell’s 1984 again in 2021 and also rewatched the movie. It is a sober reminder of the power of group dynamics and groupthink.

    This reminds me of the “Two Minutes Hate” where the people of Oceania would gather in front of a screen and shout in a frenzy at the enemies of the state, especially Emmanuel Goldstein.

    History will sort out the facts and time will reveal the complexities of this despicable act of aggression. In the meantime it is a fine line to walk on freedom of speech in a time of war.

  13. Freedom of speech, as I have observed in more than one comment on this blog, is a cultural value. If a culture abandons it, then all the UN declarations and all the articles in all the constitutions cease to matter, and the West abandoned free speech when it embraced woke culture its corollary, cancellation of unacceptable speech and coerced speech. So now BBC and CNN are irate that Russia has banned Meta/Facebook and Twitter in retaliation for the blocking of “state media” like RT in West, and both have suspended operations in Russia because they might run afoul of its new law banning ‘fake’ news. Had the Russians acted first, BBC and CNN would have a right to be critical, but both have called for the banning of RT and other Russian news for some time.
    The attacks on free speech have been underway since PC culture and hate speech became acceptable; war has just ‘escalated’ the process, as it always does.
    A link . . .

    1. From the Met’s website: “September 27 will be an historic night for opera lovers: the Metropolitan Opera, the largest performing arts company in the nation, will open its season after the long pandemic shut-down with ‘Fire Shut Up in My Bones.’ SUPPORTED BY THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS since its development period, ‘Fire Shut Up in My Bones’ is based on the memoir by Charles Blow.”

      From the NEA’s website: “The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent FEDERAL agency…”

      Olly, the Met is one of those “Little Brothers” still living in Uncle Sam’s basement. Any NEA funding should be withdrawn for violating free speech.

      1. Taxing for and funding the NEA is unconstitutional. Please review Article 1, Section 8. Where the —- is the U.S. judicial branch?

  14. Thomas Sowell said the wisest thing anyone has ever said about public policy: “There are no solutions; only trade-offs.”

    The Democrats turned NATO into their favorite jobs program in Eastern Europe. There are good arguments both ways for what the trade-offs of this policy were, and the arguments don’t fall neatly into political pigeonholes. I’ve seen cold-war hawks express concern about NATO’s expansion. Now I’m seeing the usual Harvard sophomores demanding Putin’s blood.

    I’m just as concerned about speech restrictions here as I am about them in Russia. At some point, if you’re ruled by speech-code fanatics right out of the faculty lounge, to quote their most-famous fanatic, “What difference does it make?!?”

    And we’re not arguing about CRT or some other silly, campus orthodoxy. We’re arguing about real war. Stifling debate can be suicidal in this situation.

    Some of Putin’s biggest critics are no friends to freedom. I wouldn’t share a foxhole with any of them.

  15. Professor Turley has struck a chord about the Arts and Artists — and looking back deeply into history, 1000 years or more ago, artists were the canary in the coal mine of our collective consciousness —

  16. “It is a great artistic loss for the Met and for opera.”

    It is. And it’s a loss of her own doing.

    For years, by word and by deed, she has supported Putin’s tyranny. Her condemnation of the war is not enough. She needs to condemn the invader.

    When you support the enemies of civilized behavior, you forfeit your right to participate in civilized activities.

    This is *not* a free speech issue. And the analogy to Putin’s censorship is abominable. The Met does not have a police force (or a secret police). Putin does.

    1. Not a free speech issue? Does that assuage your liberal principles? That is false security. It is about free speech, and someday it will be about yours. If you don’t like your conduct being likened to Putin on how he deals with freedom of expression, then stop supporting the acts in the toolkit of oppressors when confronting dissenting views.

      1. “Does that assuage your liberal principles?”

        You must be new to this blog. Or blind.

        The only “right” involved here is the right to contract. (Incidentally, Netrebko *withdrew* from the Met performance, and from many other performances around the world.)

    2. Be careful. To what degree might this apply to you? Our own government has sometimes behaved rather badly.

      Why should she have to denounce Putin? Leave her be and let her sing. Why should she be forced to be political on a world stage?

      1. “Our own government . . .”

        The Met is *not* a government.

        People really need to learn the fundamental distinction between government action (which essence is physical force) and private action (which essence is choice and contract).

        “Why should she have to denounce Putin?”

        Because he’s a dictator and a mass murderer — who she has openly supported.

        1. Sam, you wrote: “For years, by word and by deed, she has supported Putin’s tyranny. Her condemnation of the war is not enough. She needs to condemn the invader.

          When you support the enemies of civilized behavior, you forfeit your right to participate in civilized activities.”

          My reply: “Be careful. To what degree might this apply to you? Our own government has sometimes behaved rather badly.”

          Did we help overthrow Ukraine’s president back in 2014? Did we help select the new leadership? There are indications we did just that. Doesn’t seem like a very civilized thing to do.

          1. Prairie, Sam is like iron. If you bend it, it breaks. That is why we use steel. I like a lot of what Sam says, but the world is full of nuance and surprises. We should not be so brittle.

  17. Hurray for the met, now if the washing capitols had a set of balls they would send the Russian hockey players packing

  18. I wish to sing these words at the Met:

    “I’m Putin…the 8th I am!
    I live down south in a garbage can.
    I got married to a queer next door.
    He’d had syphilis seven times before.
    And both of us are commies!
    We don’t mind Nazis or

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