Russian Soprano Sues the Metropolitan Opera Over Ukraine-Linked Termination

YouTube screenshot/Netrebko

When Russia invaded Ukraine, we discussed how various Russian artists, athletes, and performers were blacklisted or fired for not publicly condemning the invasion or Vladimir Putin. Artists and athletes turned on their colleagues and forced them to change their political views as a condition for singing, playing or writing. Now, Soprano Anna Netrebko is suing the Metropolitan Opera and its general manager Peter Gelb for defamation, breach of contract and other violations linked to her termination.

Netrebko’s termination followed the invasion in 2022 after Gelb had demanded she repudiate Russia President Vladimir Putin. If true, Gelb should himself be fired. Conditioning performances on adhering to a political viewpoint is an outrageous denial of free speech and artistic freedom. Indeed, it is precisely the type of abuses that define the authoritarianism of Putin and his regime. For centuries, artists have fought for the freedom to create regardless of their political viewpoints.

Gelb is accused of doing precisely what studios and companies did to socialists and communists in the 1950s in demanding that they renounce their political beliefs if they wanted to write, sing, or act.

None of this seems to matter to the Met’s loyal supporters in New York. The American Guild of Musical Artists filed a grievance on Netrebko’s behalf and the arbitrator found that the Met violated the union’s collective bargaining agreement when it canceled her contracts to appear in Verdi’s “Don Carlo” and “La Forza del Destino” and Giordano’s ”Andrea Chénier.” She was awarded  $209,103.48.

Yet, Gelb was retained as general manager of the Met.

Netrebko now alleges ”severe mental anguish and emotional distress” that included “depression, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, and emotional pain and suffering.”

She says that she is being blackballed due to her refusal to adhere to the political viewpoints of Gelb and the Met. She alleges that  Gelb and the Met fueled protests against her and destroyed her reputation.

The loss is to the art world. This not only bars a talented artist, but embraces the same intolerance from the Red Scare period. It is an all-too-familiar story as many on the left embrace censorship and blacklists to silence those with opposing views. They support one of the great artistic institutions in the world, but now effectively support a political litmus test for artists.




38 thoughts on “Russian Soprano Sues the Metropolitan Opera Over Ukraine-Linked Termination”

  1. Maybe I misunderstand but I think Turley and the Met are both wrong. Expecting a performer who is Russian to publicly criticize an act of brutal inhumanity as the Russian invasion of Ukraine before allowing him/her to perform is not the same as blacklisting someone in the Fifties for past membership in the Communist Party or worse, forcing someone to support a morally questionable belief in affirmative action in hiring before being hired or publishing. Performance in art or sport is a privilege, not simple free speech. She has said per the Guardian, “I expressly condemn the war against Ukraine and my thoughts are with the victims of this war and their families,” she wrote. Netrebko, 50, said she was “neither a member of a political party nor am I linked to any leader of Russia”, and admitted that she “recognizes and regrets that my actions and statements in the past could in part be misconstrued”. It is wrong for The Met not to admire her courage in saying that and embrace Netrebko along with her fans. Gergiev has not made such a statement. I don’t want to buy a ticket to see him on an American stage until he does.

  2. I remember the documentary about Met on Public TV. And I remember words of mister Gelb ” Anna Netrebko will sing whatever she wants with the Met”. What about Karajan? He is the greatest one and we still listen his recordings. I am ready to listen Anna’s Bellini Il Puritani many times because her performance full of life and simply wonderful.

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