Just in: Anna Netrebko won’t sing Norma

She has withdrawn from the opening of the Royal Opera House season in London, and they haven’t found a replacement. It’s a major setback for the company.

Here’s what all sides are saying:

Anna Netrebko has said: ‘As I have begun to prepare the role, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion my voice has evolved in a different direction. This is something I could not have anticipated when Maestro Pappano and I planned this project four years ago, as we singers have to make decisions about roles and projects several years in advance. It pains me greatly to disappoint him, the Royal Opera House, and audiences in the UK. Knowing that tickets will soon go on sale and not wanting to mislead anyone, I feel I must now be honest with myself as an artist and make this very difficult decision.’

Kasper Holten, Director of Opera added, ‘We are working hard on finding a new leading soprano to join Tony Pappano, Joseph Calleja, Sonia Ganassi and Brindley Sherratt in the rehearsal room later this summer. We are, of course, very frustrated that Anna has felt it necessary to cancel a major role debut with us for the second time. We have done everything we can to avoid this situation. Whilst we regret that her withdrawal has come at such a late stage, we do respect her decision and understand how difficult this is for her as well. We are sorry for the disappointment this may cause some of our audience.’

Antonio Pappano, Music Director added, ‘I am of course saddened not to be doing this iconic opera with Anna. We had planned this project around her ambition to take it on some time ago but we all have to accept that things sometimes change. After all, it is a hugely challenging role. We have a superb creative team led by Àlex Ollé and a fantastic line up of world class singers and we will announce our new Norma shortly.

Anna and I have some other plans for the future at Covent Garden, in particular one of the major roles in which she has recently triumphed.’

netrebko norma

UPDATE: Netrebko cancels Met as well.

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  • Please only one favour: not Cecilia Bartoli who only impressed the German and Austrian audience as most of them never heard this opera before…I found it terribe; it will probably be Sondra Radvanovsky who is among the few who can tackle this role at the moment? For Agresta it is a bit early, no? She however would bring the mostly missed Italian colour, timbre – the so called ‘Italianita’ we keep missing with most castings nowadays worldwide!!! Having said that I nevertheless regret that Anna doesn’t sing it as I thought she would finally bring back a dramatic and fully voiced Norma far from the manierism of Bartoli etc. I trust she would have been very intense in it and for me much better than her trial with Wagner – she is constantly preparing her first Wagner at Dresden Opera – I have my doubts that she will be a good Elsa….
    Let’s hope ROH finds a good replacement and until then just listend to any of Maria Callas Norma – she owns this role like almost all she sang!

    • We hear enough Normas over here!!! I’ve heard performances in Germany, Switzerland and Austria plenty of times. Of course this does not make Bartoli the perfect joice for the role and neither does Netrebko.

  • I’d vote for Carmen Giannattasio. She was a hit in Beijing last year, and this year in Munich. Her voice is at the perfect stage for this.

  • Have last seen her as the brilliant Leonora in Salzburg. Agree 100% with Anna’s decision and admire her courage.

      • Reminds me of a game I used to play, where we would dream up casts of wonderful singers who were TOTALLY wrong for their roles.

        Example: ZAUBERFLOTE. In the past we would have cast Tebaldi, Del Monaco, Gobbi and maybe Callas as Queen of the Night…

  • ROH deserves it — for planning with the old discredited edition(s). Companies of this stature should be leaders in authenticity, not stubborn recalcitrants in the face of good research. This opera needs a light-sounding soprano (not a mezzo) for the young Adalgisa and darker tones (with great agility and intelligence in the fioritura, not so much dramatic heft) for the title role.

    ROH audiences of course deserve better.

    • At the world premiere Adalgisa was a mezzo… The choise really depends on who is Norma, what is the color of the voice, how the timbres of two ladies blend.

      • The first Adalgisa was Giulia Grisi, a 20-something soprano who later went on to be the first Elvira in PURITANI and Norina in DON PASQUALE. Further repertoire included Norma herself, Lucrezia Borgia, Valentine in LES HUGUENOTS: all soprano roles which require a secure top.

  • The English Soprano Judith Howarth has absolutely everything required to sing Adalgisa. The role requires vocal flexibility, agility, purity, beauty of tone & consistency. She has true “bel canto” style & it would be great to see ROH use one of their own products for a change & a welcome return for her many UK fans.

    • You are right, but she looks like 50-years old housewife… And the make-up and costume will not correct either the posture or the way she moves.

        • Of course I would and I did. But I would find it ridiculous to cast her for Adalgisa for staging production. Her CD recording of the role is stunning though.

          Caballe had a royal aura on stage. And Judith Howarth has a totally different image.

          • Of course you are entitled to your opinion. I have followed Ms. Howarth’s career for many years & cannot think of a review for any of her extensive roles world-wide where bad posture or movement were highlighted. Which is surprising given our opera critic’s tendency nowadays to concentrate on how singers look on stage over vocal prowess. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

  • Wonder where and what she will be singing now that she has a hole in her schedule. After all, with houses and major artists scheduling 4 yrs+ ahead there can’t surely be many stages that she could step onto at such short notice. Could there?

    • I think and hope that she will rest and learn new roles, better suited to her present voice, as Aida, Gioconda, Adriana Lecouvreur, Tosca, Amelia in Ballo, and so on.

  • No soprano sound better than Monserat Caballe and in pair with Marylin Horne in “Norma”. Smart for Anna Netrebko not to damage farther her reputation. Cecilia Bartolli did and disappoint her fans.

  • The chances of the ROH finding just one major artiste free at such short notice for what will be at least an 8 week period of rehearsals and performances must surely be zero. I think they will be lucky even to find two to share the role.

  • Carmen Giannatasio “Casta Diva” doesn’t make her as best Norma, sound rough,not in good taste rendition. There was great Norma-late Maria Bieshu of Moldova. She won in Tokyo 1st price for best Madam Butterfly. Anna Netrebko sang at her festival in Kishinev she told me.

  • Finally, Madam Vishnevtrebko has acknowledged her limits in the Bel Canto rep and will hopefully spend her newly acquired free time learning roles slightly more inline with her technique. Fingers crossed for Liza, Tosca, Elisabeth and Ariadne.

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