Netrebko gets stuck in to brownface row

Netrebko gets stuck in to brownface row


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2018

The diva has been replying to critical comments about her dark skin makeup in the Met’s Aida.

She writes:
anna_netrebko_yusi_tiago@calebjaster  I am play Ethiopian princess in antic beautiful production of Aida and wearing exotic markup. Do you have any problem with that? My skin color is likely naturally dark ✌️ production and having
anna_netrebko_yusi_tiago@calebjaster so shut up and stick with your piano and not bother great theater with stupid questions😡
dinah_forsyte@calebjaster Oh, you sweet mediocre thing))) that comment from great artist was the best thing, that happend to you 🤘🤘🤘🤘 Farewell, buddy

Just another late night on social media.



A post shared by @ anna_netrebko_yusi_tiago on


  • Mark says:

    Delightful 🙂 Well done, Ms. Netrebko !
    This is the only way to treat the whiney SJW types.

  • Caravaggio says:

    Anna Netrebko is opera’s answer to Donald Trump. With her increasingly sloppy and badly tuned singing, which parallels DT’s increasingly disastrous adminstrative sloppiness, she has officially morphed, like him, into a social media troll. Let it be said too that she is near analphabet English-wise and all out analphabet German-wise. But she knows how to play along crude, misogynistic notions of femalehood as defined by a certain segment of the opera going public. That is the measure of her stardom, in a world where standards (remember those?) have all but conveniently vanished.

    • Been Here Before says:

      Mentioning the vanished standards, one can always take look at the interview of Maria Callas with Lord Harewood on youtube. That was the portrait of the lady and a great artist!

      • Tristan says:

        I am the biggest fan and admirer of Maria Callas – a league of its own and only once in a century, incomparable in any role she sang – however shouldn’t we be happy to have a singer like Anna Netrebko?
        There is not one single great Italian soprano around – let’s face the truth! Voila let’s accept Slavic timbres and enjoy Anna who is a great artist but definitely not the hype those ignorant critics write – especially those in Germany

        • Been Here Before says:

          I was not referring to Callas’ singing, but her demeanor and eloquence (and to be politically incorrect, her command of English, too). In this respect – no, we should not be happy with Ms. Netrebko.

          • Jon says:

            The singing is what matters. How well a singer speaks English is of little importance. How many Americans can communicate in Russian, German, Italian, French for that matter.

            As for La Callas, she was born in New York and went to school here. In addition, many of my friends, old of course, remember the interview on TV where she mentioned how much she loved singing under Sir Thomas Beecham Bart!

          • Bruce says:

            Well, to be fair:

            (a) Callas was born and spent her early years in the US, so of course her English was fluent;

            (b) she was quite famous for her “temperament” (and her temper) and had a reputation for not suffering fools gladly. Considering that she had to deal with claques at La Scala & elsewhere, and did not rise above it all, it’s not hard to imagine her engaging in Twitter fights now and then.

    • Stuart says:

      absurd comment driven by deep-seeded bias

    • Lou McConnell says:

      Rather look and listen to her than you Caravaggio ! Your mean spirited comments about Anna and Donny the Trumper say more about you than it does of them !

    • George says:

      Caravaggio, how is your Russian going?


    Bravo, Anna

    • Caravaggio says:

      A supposedly impartial music critic acting like a fanboy. Rich. Not good for the profession, is it?

      • Mike Schachter says:

        Being impartial does not mean not having opinions. But you are not really interested in anyone else’s, are you?

        • Caravaggio says:

          “Bravo, Anna” is hardly an opinion. What it is is the gushing of a fanboy. From this moment onward one has to seriously question the author in relation to his published reviews of Netrebko performances or recordings past, present and future. As I said, when it comes to all manner of standards everywhere, the floor has dropped.

          • Bruce says:

            Well, considering that there are no important singers left, it doesn’t matter what any critic says about any of the ones we have, does it?

      • Dan Redding says:

        Impartial music critic? Hahahaha. He’s probably in the pay of Decca and Netrebko’s agent. Fanboy, Fanboy… 🙂

    • Olassus says:

      It’s “brava” for a girl.

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    Netrebko’s outspoken public support of Putin’s unconscionable policies, especially in regard to Crimea, is bad enough but no one ever considered the Krasnodar crooner to be a Nobel prize intellect.
    What is musically more objectionable is that in deference to some irrational obsession to deify a diva, her recent vocal shortcomings, particularly in terms of shoddy intonation, seem impervious to criticism. Caravaggio is right – Rupert should know better.
    But when one adds the arrogance of foistering a third rate, mono-metallic voiced Yusif Eyvazov on the undeserving operatic public merely because they share a bed as well as a partitura, then it is surely time to say ‘basta’.
    Despite legitimate concerns about the integrity of Netrebko’s intonation, I am not suggesting that in certain roles she is not worth hearing. What is not worth hearing however are her ill-educated, hagiographic, boorish, bumpkin views on politics. Not that her musical opinions are much better – she once told Opera News that she didn’t like the role of Tatyana because ‘there are no melodies’.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Exactly where have you seen her ‘ outspoken public support of Putin’s unconscionable policies, especially in regard to Crimea’? She has signed a couple of manifestos under pressure, but – unlike her string-puller, Gergiev – her statements have been few and restrained.

    • SVM says:

      Renée Fleming recently sang at the funeral of John McCain, a warmonger and imperialist who represents the worst facets of American foreign policy, fomenting unrest and destroying lives and livelihoods all over the world. Yo-Yo Ma played at the inauguration of Barack Obama, who has bombed seven countries and been at war longer than any other POTUS (despite having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — either the Nobel committee had taken leave of their senses, or they had hoped to embarrass Obama into ending the colonialist adventures of the USA). Simon Rattle conducted at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics, one of the UK’s biggest state-sponsored land-grabs in recent years, which dispossessed households and businesses in a huge swathe of east London (as well as misappropriating hundreds of millions from the Big Lottery Fund and breaking promises to repay the money, depriving many worthy causes of their funding).

      Where is the chorus of condemnation against musicians who have associated themselves with tyrannical politicians and events in “the West”?

      Personally, I prefer not to hold others to absurdly high ethical standards when it comes to their associations. To some extent, are we not all contaminated by and complicit in the many evils perpetuated by our governments in our name, using the taxes we pay? As a UK citizen, I cannot claim any moral high-ground, since my government (irrespective of the political party in charge) has been one of the worst tyrants on the world stage over the last few decades… it makes me ashamed to be British.

      • MJA says:

        SVM’s post just shows that you really can write anything about anything.

        • Bogda says:

          Could you at least tell us what in SVM’s comment is not true.

          It’s quite remarkable to see how it’s become a common practice in the west to moralize about the support artists in other countries have for their leaders, which are not deemed to be of certain liberal western standards. I’m not defending those leaders or countries, but somehow it’s always forgotten that many western artists are nationalist or patriots of their homecountries or supporters of leaders who by any objective standards are far from saints. But who cares, we in the west have higher moral ground as we live in “democracy” so our patriotism is by default a good one. As SVM mentioned almost all of western leaders have committed or supported some horrible crimes towards other countries and people, but no one seems to care if artists support those leaders.

          • MJA says:

            You ask what in SVM’s comment is not true. Line by line, it is a matter of opinion, not fact. Two examples: if John McCain was “a warmonger and imperialist who represents [sic] the worst facets of American foreign policy”, then God knows how we are to think of the current president; and SVM’s assessment of the transformational, regenerative effect of the London Olympics on Stratford in East London is perverse to the point of travesty. And if s/he thinks the lottery funding was “misappropriated” then s/he is entitled to her/his opinion. It’s a pity, because the point SVM is trying to make on the back of such deeply flawed statements has something to be said for it.

          • Bogda says:

            Unfortunately majority of American politicians, including John McCain are war mongers as that is general accepted form of foreign “diplomacy” and politics practiced in the USA. It is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact.
            Most Americans seem to find it natural for their country to police the whole world and wage dozens of wars across the globe. To many this feels distant as it does not involve them and see if some kind of the game. On the other side of that game are real lives and really countries that are being destroyed. There is this perverse feeling among majority of Americans that that by being a “democratic” superpower US is entitled to do so and there is inherently nothing wrong with it. everyone seems to praise McCain for his bipartisanship etc, but not many actully find it problematic and in some ways criminal that he was one of the staunchest supporters of many wars and bombing campaigns US has been conducting all over the world.
            Looking form that perspective Russian foreign politics are peanuts in comparison with USA.

          • MJA says:

            Bogda – I’m sorry but you too are guilty of representing a subjective value judgement of your own (ie an opinion) as a “fact”. It’s not – it’s an opinion – to which you are entitled (no matter how offensive), just as SVM is to his/hers, and I am to mine. Enough, I think.

          • Bogda says:

            MJA – it’s not really a matter of opinion, but of facts. Let me remind you that Bill Clinton bombed former Yugoslavia (in two different wars), George W. Bush Iraq (on fabricated pretenses), Barack Obama Libya. Just to name few wars that US conducted that John McCain supported as did majority of American politicians and Americans.

      • vonessek says:

        Valid argument, SVM! Artists, like everyone else, have the right to opine and even act as activists. However, since they usually aren’t political geniuses nor dedicated years to study political issues, they are easily manipulated. They act with conviction, but often don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. More often than not, they should stay away from politics. Some people tell Anna (and others) that, as a prominent singer, she has a duty to say something (i.e. criticize her country). No, she doesn’t. Anna said on more ocassions that she doesn’t understand politics. She is criticized for that, but she is, in fact, smart. Far smarter than many of her righteous critics who believe they understand complex issues after they’ve read three articles in the newspapers.

      • Kay young says:

        l think politics and nastier comments should be BANNED from our operas. doesn’t anybody just enjoy the music any more?? li Anna netrebko puts on dark make . so what. aide was DARK. people are to touchy and all this politically correct nonsense will ruin opera as it has other things. let our performers have some artistic licence. or you will be in danger of some boring operas.

      • Halima says:

        Well said

      • Tamino says:

        Thank you SVM for this injection of reality. Not that there is much hope though, speaking the truth like this could wake up many of our brainwashed and sedated American human brethren.

      • Robert Groen says:

        I can’t remember when I last enjoyed a musical discussion so much. I think Anna Netrebko is a lovely singer. I loved her in l’Elisir d’Amore, I loved her in Manon and quite a few other things. Most recently I loved her in the Met’s Iolanta. I can’t form and opinion on her Aida,as I haven’t seen it. But I do know that she is the victim of a very nasty sniping campaign because she has the temerity to support the president of her country. A similar fate has befallen the brilliant pianist Valentina Lisitsa (who speaks excellent English, by the way) who suffered the indignity -insult, rather- of being banned from playing a concert in Canada for -guess!- speaking her mind about the Ukraine conflict. As for our current demon of choice Putin, I have come to the conclusion that he has more civilization and humanity in his big toe than all the western leaders put together. But that’s just me.

        • MJA says:

          Robert Groen – what a pity. I like what you say about Ms Netrebko, but as for Putin, try telling that to the family of Dawn Sturgess or the people of Salisbury in general.

          • Robert Groen says:

            “What a pity”….. What do you mean? Pity for you? Pity for me? Sounds to me as if I had your initial approval and then went and ruined it all by saying what I did about Vladimir Putin. I’ve now placed you on the map as living in Britain and identified you as a concerned citizen who believes everything the government and the Daily Mail tells you. I’m not British and have access to many sources of information beside Downing Street and the rightwing British press (you can too, if you make the effort). On the basis of the information thus amassed, I have come to the conclusion that a) the Skripals were not attacked with military grade Novichok, eight times more deadly than VX (or they’d be seriously dead), b) there is no evidence that, if Novichok was used at all, it came from Russia (first developed in the Soviet Union, now anyone -including the chaps at Porton Down- can make it, c) no motive has been offered for the Russians to do this to these people at that time. If you’re looking for motive, a desire on the part of Downing Street to embarrass the Russians (their current whipping boys) seems as good as any. As for Putin himself, I have read enough, seen enough and heard enough of him to conclude that he is a thoroughtly decent man, with a heavy responsibility of governing a nation of 300 million-plus people and coping with some serious problems on its southern border, As such he seems to be doing a very good job indeed, which is reflected in his popularity ratings at home. Forgive him for not giving a damn what you think about him, it’s the people who rely on him to run the country properly whose opinion he values. You British would be lucky to have a leader like that. As it is, you’ll have to make do with the leaders you’ve got. Oh dear….

        • MJA says:

          Well, Mr Groen, I’m not going to waste any more time on you. Your comments about me are as way off the mark as your views on Putin. Actually, what you’ve said turns my stomach – in other words, it makes me sick, though not as sick as Putin’s agent made those poor people. I wish you luck as you continue your relationship with Putin’s toes. Goodbye.

        • Von Schneider says:

          You are woefully uninformed – wonderfully highlighted in your comment by the fact that you appear to believe Russia has a population of ‘300 million-plus’. It’s actually less than half that figure. Or do you argue that this is merely anti-Russian propaganda and that the actual population of the country is deliberately understated by the Western Imperialists? A man who thinks Putin’s official popularity ratings reflect the true sentiment of the Russian people is ready to believe anything….

          • Robert Groen says:

            Von Schneider, I stand corrected. You are absolutely right about the population of the Russian Federation. Why and how I came to reach back to Soviet days, when the population of the USSR hovered around the 300 million mark, I have no idea. I assure you that’s it’s not nostalgia for the Soviet era. Thank you for pointing out what was indeed a stupid error. The rest of your missive I read with interest but that, I’m afraid, did not alter my views on Mr. Putin one iota.

      • Maria says:

        I come from that area Stratford in East London and I don’t recognise your take on my home town. I ended up with a much better home, as we all did, in that part of London. It was a total dump before the regeneration with substandard housing that should have been pulled down thirty years ago. At least now we don’t live with the cockroaches and we have decent shops and transport system with tge rebuilding of Stratford station that even other parts of London, never mind the north of England, would envy.

    • Iskra Ivanova says:

      Crimea voted to be part of Russia to avoid all the chaos in which they can be involved. Ukraine unfortunately had long history of fascism in the past and now. Too bad that the majority of our days individuals base their opinions on sloppy and incorrect data. One huge difference between how Eastern europeans and Western people is that we never believed our propaganda during totalitarian times while the Western do.

  • anon says:

    Nasty, mean and petty.

    There was a time divas knew they were noble and behaved with nobility, the so-called divas of today like Netrebko are common and coarse, just like their fans, egging each other on, sloshing in gutter water.

    That Peter Gelb would tolerate this behavior even off-stage (not to mention brownface in New York!) reveals why he tolerated Levine for so long, it’s all about box office.

    It’s undeniable, she’s a star, she draws in the crowds and gets the rave reviews of the NYT.

    And so it is.

    • anon says:

      That brownfacing goes without protest in New York City speaks volumes about the state of opera in New York: The older white Met audience couldn’t care less about brownface in opera, and the rest of New York couldn’t care less about opera period.

      • Stuart says:

        You have to love this blog. We go from discussing criticism of a singer’s makeup, to criticising her politics (as if they matter) to dumping, yet again, of Gelb, who is bad at his job but working under impossible circumstances (unions, economy, opera is not relevant, the house is too big and it is New York after all.) I love opera and listen to it every day. I love old operas, forgotten operas and new operas, as long as they are good & interesting. I love Netrebko’s voice in certain repertoire. Loved the Macbeth and the Pasquale. That said, no on is going to surpass Callas or Sutherland in many of the operas that I love, at least in my lifetime. And opera is very important to me and to what I am, but if you asked me to put a list together of the top 1000 things/issues that are vital today or that really matter, opera would not be on that list. It is a very small niche, one that I enjoy daily, but a very small niche all the same. The shade of Netrebko’s make up isn’t going to change anything. People love their causes but the throne of political correctness now rivals the Iron Throne. As to opera, relax and enjoy – that is what it is there for.

  • D. Bradley says:

    I am one of the faceless, unwashed mass, untutored and untitled – of no consequence whatever but as a pure representative of those the “elite” despise I can testify that of all the opera icons I have heard in my 76 years on this planet Netrebko, when she is in full flower, reaches not only the academically accomplished structures of my soul but also,more tellingly, those lonely, almost forgotten childhood vestiges of a boy from a dirt-poor horse ranch in Arizona. That may not loom large in the tinsel ghettos of the world’s city-clots but if Ms. Netrebko ever wondered if her musical efforts lifted another human’s life to a higher consciousness, she has my example. Who else of you sniping, wolfish wordsmiths can assert that? Trot out your claims, if you can. Netrebko, and others, in their lonely struggle to build their own Taj Mahals, rise above and despite the tawdry mudslingers who sadly must, like the abrasive dust of the crystal itself, exist to polish the gem then be cast away, forgotten.

    • Been Here Before says:

      With all due respect, Sir, you ought to expand your listening repertoire!

    • vonessek says:

      If you observe who usually attacks Netrebko, it’s not the colleagues who know her personally and with whom she works (not even those from Georgia, Latvia, gays, etc). We have a word in my language, “politikant” describing a person who politicizes everything in order to come across as noble or benefit in some way. Such politikants don’t care about art, not really, they only care about ideology. For them, it’s forbidden for an esteemed artist to be apolitical. And if the artist isn’t apolitical but simply doesn’t accept their ideology, than he’s a mortal enemy. It’s funny how often those who proclaim to fight for human rights sound as tyrants.
      But who cares? Artists who, as you say, elevate us to higher consciousness, make the world a better place and secure their place in history while ideologues vanish without trace. For posterity, it’s far better to be a great artist than a great ideologue.

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    I think posing with the flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic is a very public show of support for Putin’s policies. Her donation of 15,000 euros to the theatre in Donetsk is less contentious as art is obviously not subject to border disputes.
    Saying the manifestos were signed ‘under pressure’ is tantamount to exonerating the legion of musicians who joined the National Socialist party as a career ‘expediency’. Netrebko neither lives nor works very much in Russia any more so has no reason to submit to such thuggish political pressure. Much better to stick to opera and as for politics, ‘zitto, zitto, piano, piano’.

  • John Russell says:

    BRAVA, ANNA for your beautiful, rare AIDA!

  • John Russell says:

    BRAVA, ANNA Netrebko for your beautiful, rare AIDA!

  • dquinn says:

    Who really cares as The Met recklessly destroys the form, intent and content of PETER GRIMES; HANSEL&GRETEL or the Coney Islandish Cosi Fan Tutte,,,

    • Ms.Melody says:

      And don’t forget the hideous looking Iolanta, weird Tristan und Isolde, cold, sterile Faust,
      Otello with glass walls, I could go on, but it is too painful

  • Kay young says:

    after all these negative things people are saying. in a very unkind way. lam now glad that lam not a professional singer or musician. l did think about it once. but lam glad lam just a serious amateur who loves opera early music and playing and singing with her harps. l COULD NOT have coped with all this. it’s horrible. please stop.

    • Helen Wynn says:

      Anna is corrrect. Nothing wrong with looking the part. Boy, it sure was great a couple of years ago when the Met’s Otello looked like an old white guy, the scourge of the earth, apparently!

  • Alexander says:

    Norman, you seem to be her PR agent 😉 She doesn’t worry, and worry ( originally Marilyn M. revealed it in public first) . I don’t think I would share all cultural values she likes to use in her life , all the same I can certainly say she is a good girl ( like Renée and some other sopranos) and what she does she does right .
    Disclaimer 😉 – just my opinion, of course

  • Vladislav says:

    She is a poisonous person.

  • ernestlow says:

    Ms Netrebko is entitled to her opinions. When she performs on stage, she is performing as an artist and not vaunting her political opinions. We attend her performances to admire and enjoy her artistry and not to judge her political opinions. Let’s keep the two separate. No two singers are alike, let’s not compare her to Callas or to anyone else but to enjoy her prodigious artistry!

  • Tamino says:

    Can somebody explain, what the problem in the story is?
    I see a lot of outrage, but it’s not clear about what.

    • Caravaggio says:

      About her coarse troll attack on a fellow Instagrammer. That her attack was written in very poor English only added salt to the wound.

      • Alex Davies says:

        I think her English is quite good, given that it isn’t her first language, nor, I think, even her second. Also, she is not the only person to criticise Caleb Jaster for this comment.

        • Caravaggio says:

          If you think her English is quite good just as if you thought her singing is quite good at this stage in her life, then there is no longer any truth and only fake news tailored to her fans.

    • Caleb says:

      The problem as I see it is how major operatic institutions such as the Met are still using the extremely outdated and inherently racist practice of black/brown/yellow etc. face. This isn’t just against Anna. It’s against Met and all opera houses worldwide that still hire white singers to play roles that “require” them to “look like” any minority.

      Secondly, to have a star who holds so much sway in these circles defending this, completely ignorant of why blackface is bad, and say “shut up and don’t bother great theater with stupid questions,” is pretty symbolic of a system that already discriminates against singers of color.

      I think there’s a lot more to be said about this discussion…. but if anybody needs to know WHY putting white singers in brown makeup and a wig with corn rows is bad… you know my instagram, let’s talk.

    • Robert Groen says:

      Apparently it’s Vladimir Putin.

  • Stephen says:

    I, who had the great fortune to get a good seat 7 times to see Laurence Olivier blacked up with the greatest care and respect as a fabulous Othello, have no time for this “politically correct” rubbish.

  • Bumbry says:

    I really think that you are forgetting one crucial point: credibility! In defense of my colleague, Anna Netrebko, she was absolutely right in trying to portray the role of an Ethiopians, which is an African, normally of a dark complexion. I remember the time when Sir Laurence Olivier darkened his skin fir his portrayal of Othello, as did Placida Domingo and this was considered as part of the characterization of the role they had chosen to perform. A true artist tries to find what the composer has intended, as I did practically all of the many years of my long career. The only roles where I was relieved of ‘lightening up’ were AIDA and SELIKA. Of course, going to such lengths is a lot of work, but it allows you to get closer to the masterpiece you are endeavoring to portray. The voice is one thing and the physical portrayal is another, and we, as artists, try to combine them in a manner that serves the composer and the audience.

    • Ms.Melody says:

      God bless you for sounding the voice of reason and reminding us that the composer’s intentions need to be taken into account.
      Just curious, are the African American operasingers as bothered by their white colleagues making up to “look like them” in the part as the PC zealots seem to be on this site?

    • Stephen says:

      Greetings to you, Diva! I have never forgotten your wonderful Salome and Amneris at Covent Garden. And once you did me the honour of answering three of my questions in “Gramophone”.