The Netrebkos are on a final warning

The Netrebkos are on a final warning


norman lebrecht

August 12, 2019

This week, Anna Netrebko should have been making her Bayreuth debut in Lohengrin. Her husband, Yusif Eyvazov, was due to be singing at the Arena di Verona.

By mysterious coincidence, both felt exhausted at the same time and cancelled their engagements. Instead, they flew off together to celebrate a family birthday and a friend’s wedding in Baku. Spontaneously, as one does.

Since then, they have been posting happy-family pictures of their leisure activities in Azerbaijan, not looking clinically exhausted.



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Somewhere far away in Azerbaijan … Где то далеко в Азербайджане…

A post shared by @ anna_netrebko_yusi_tiago on

Thousands of operagoers who paid to see them have been left disappointed. Many feel cheated.

Netrebko is, at this moment, the most bankable and powerful singer in the opera world. She commands a record singing fee and has been able to persuade opera companies to insert her husband in place of demonstrably superior tenors. She is literally on top of the world.

But not for long, if she continues showing contempt for her commitments and her audience.

Today’s breed of opera managers does not contain many notable heroes but at some point – and it will not take long – one manager will stand up and say to Netrebko, as Rudolf Bing did to Maria Callas: get out of my house.

For Callas, it was all downhill from that point on.

For Netrebko and Eyvazov, it’s just a matter of time.

They are on a final warning.



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  • Alexander says:

    who would remember Rudolf Bing if only for what he had done to Maria Callas, I’m just curious ….

    • Novagerio says:

      Read his 5.000 Nights at the Opera…you might even get impressed…

      • Alexander says:

        I would rather re-read “War and Peace” Epilogue ( not sure whether you have ever heard about it ) first. That was what I got impressed with when read it for the first time. Pure esoterics, I can understand why Leo Tolstoy has been excommunicated by Russian Orthodox Church. By the way , if you decide to make some time to read it , you will be able to improve your skills in objectivity and see things in a more unbiased light ( so-to-speak) …. Never doubt the book of Mr. Bing you mentioned in your answer is interesting though 😉

    • asteven says:

      How about being present at the start of Glyndebourne Festival and the Edinburgh Festival….and he ran an opera house in New York.

      • Alexander says:

        kudos to him for that 😉 …. how about being who excited half of the world in her times and still does it now ? 😉 Cannot imagine myself without listening to her Casta Diva 😉

        • Angelica Catalani says:

          This has to be the stupidest response to a post I’ve ever read. Reductive nonsense of the lowest order, made even worse by polluting the conversation with the mention of that sacred cow, Callas. Purrrleasse! La Greca atroce could sour the milk before it even left the udder. A singer trotted out by neophytes who adore the psychotic suicidal types of life, rather than someone who could actually sing. Bing stands and falls by his own achievements as does that woman.

          • Bruce says:

            I feel the same way. I do admire her total commitment to every moment in the music (although most singers have that). But I can’t listen to her without hearing the awful damage she is doing to her voice. The sad part is, when someone squeezes their voice at emotionally intense moments, the voice actually becomes less expressive, not more. It feels more intense to put pressure on the voice, but the intensity the listener hears is the distress on the vocal cords.

            (Before anyone protests: how old was she when her singing began to fall apart? How old was she when she retired? How old were Tebaldi, Sutherland, Price, or Freni when they retired?)

            As for stage presence: watching videos of her legendary Tosca with Gobbi et al., I find her a “busy” actress. Perhaps this was revolutionary at the time for not simply standing in place, but it comes across to me like silent-movie acting.

            Of course, this whole argument is one of opinions, so I just thought I’d throw mine in the pot.

          • Novagerio says:

            Bruce, televised opera might ressemble “silent-movie acting” when seen on close-up. That’s why good old opera art is supposed to happen on an the stage, in a large opera house, and enjoyed amongst thousands of buffs.

            Concerning the “Holy cow” or “La Greca”, she for sure was a much more consumate artist than anything we will see today, at least concerning what is backed up by the current markets;
            to begin with, “La Greca” would never have used a teleprompter, as Netrebko and Kaufmann do…
            Incidentally, Callas’s “Casta Diva” is and will remain an interpretative yardstick impossible to surpass.

          • Bruce says:

            Novagerio – opera acting still does resemble silent-movie acting when caught in closeup on camera… or else sometimes singers get all subtle with their gestures and facial expressions when they know there are cameras, which probably means a diminished experience for the actual audience members (I’m thinking of Met Opera broadcasts). No way for a singer to win that one, I guess.

            No arguments about Callas as an interpreter. As I said (or tried to say), she was obviously committed to every note, which requires meticulous preparation, for which Callas was well known.

            I also have no strong opinions one way or the other about Netrebko. I’ve seen/heard her on TV a few times and thought “that’s a nice voice,” but nothing made me want to hear her again. That’s OK. She’s doing just fine without me 🙂

            (I’m reminding myself of an article I read long ago about a cultured old lady who was a patroness of the arts in… New York? Washington DC? I forget her name and her city; but she had known Toscanini when she was young and was very knowledgeable about music and singing. She said about Kiri Te Kanawa: “Beautiful woman, with a perfectly lovely voice. But I simply wouldn’t cross the street to hear her sing.”)

            Anyway, back to Callas: I simply don’t like to listen to her singing. Quite possibly I’m shallow — what a friend of mine calls a “tone junkie” — but the way she punishes her vocal cords takes all the enjoyment out of it for me.

            And as far as “greatest of all time” status: music is like certain sports. In soccer, “GOAT” discussions are now all about Messi and Ronaldo; nobody talks about Pelé or Maradona any more. In tennis, it’s Federer vs. Nadal; nobody talks about Laver, Borg, McEnroe or even Sampras any more. Those legends are all referred to as “legendary, of course; but.” But in baseball (sorry, very USA-centric example), the greatest of all time is Babe Ruth, and always will be.

            In music, partisans are very often like that about their favorites. For many, the greatest tenor will always be Caruso, no matter who comes along later. Greatest soprano will always be Callas. Greatest pianist will always be Horowitz. Greatest violinist will always be Heifetz. Etc. etc. etc.

            I stay out of those arguments 🙂

          • Novagerio says:

            Bruce: I respect if you or anybody doesn’t like Maria Callas. It takes in fact a while to learn how to appreciate her art! I only don’t like partisans!
            It’s the same discussion I have encountered for 30 years concerning another giant called Jon Vickers.

            It’s as uselessly stupid as fighting about Chelsea or Arsenal! (Personally, I prefer Manchester City over Manchester United!)

            But concerning “operatic acting”:
            Any wise operatic director would disagree to televise opera, for the simple reason that Stage antics are meant to be seen from distance, as suggestive acting, not on close-up, unless you are Zeffirelli, who knew one or two things about at least three different art forms, straight theatre, lyrical theatre and cinematography!

            If you see a show in Verona’s mighty Arena, you will hardly want to expect Regie-Theater, given the fact that the singers will look like small ants from a large distance. If you however televise a show that’s meant to be for a large place, the “acting” will appear like a mixture of Cecil B. DeMille, Carl Th.Dreyer and the Keystone Cops, and that’s because operatic singers are not trained and are not supposed to be “straight actors”, they are supposed to foremostly “act” with their voices.

          • Hamilton says:

            Not sure about Callas being a more complete artist than we are used to today. The truth is almost certainly the opposite. I suspect she would have made great use of a teleprompter based on the fact that she certainly did make significant use of prompters in her career. There is also a tiresomeness to watching her performances which were videoed – they come across as hammy in the extreme, which wasn’t how you experienced them in the auditorium – the blessing of not seeing the truth close-up I suppose. Acting was anything but subtle or insightful back then. Watched live and at the time, it was less obviously so blunt, but theatre, including opera, has come a long way since then. We are in an age of actors, if not in singers. Not everything in the past was better and how tired I am of my generation and those much younger than myself, spouting such twaddle as if it were truths.

            Callas’ genius was not physical, she would be found severely wanting by today’s standards, where the televisual medium requires a standard of acting far superior to that of the past. Every flaw is magnified and with the greatest of respect to her admirers, some objective scrutiny of her talents is sorely needed, especially if you never saw her perform in the flesh. The myth has overtaken the reality. For those of us who did see her live, her genius was with the expressive quality she applied to the words. This is captured faithfully by her recordings too. Like many I found the voice stretched and somewhat ugly in timbre, but there was magic in what she did. She is undoubtedly a great artist of the first rank, if also a rather disappointing singer. I only caught her on spectacular form once, ordinarily she would be compromised in some way or another, invariably vocally – and no, this wasn’t just after her “decline”. Her Covent Garden Norma from 53 was easily her best performance I attended and coincidentally the first time I saw her. She was wonderful, both vocally and dramatically. Simionato projected better, which sometimes lent their duets an odd imbalance, but how wonderful it was to hear acuti at C and above with that kind of volume. I never knew it was possible until that moment. It was all stunted canaries before Callas and Sutherland and I suppose, largely so afterwards (Radvanovsky, Netrebko, Anderson et al never fielded the same volume in alt, but remain impressive).

            Her prime was extremely short, compared to other great divas of the latter half of the 20th century. Whether it was because of weight-loss, poor technique (covered nasal sounds, a strident wobble and singing roles heavier than her voice was by nature endowed for), alcohol/smoking abuse, we’ll never know, plus it is irrelevant. If she had somehow managed to survive her vocal/personal crisis and continued singing, I suspect the myth would have been shattered and a more appropriate account of her magisterial, but flawed career ensued. There were far greater singers out there, more imaginative interpreters even and more accomplished actors, but like the other greats, her combinations of strengths carved her a unique niche in operatic history.

            She was Callas, which was quite enough.

          • Alexander says:

            …you see, Hamilton, I could guess she possessed a great portion of hypermagnetism ( kind of hypnosis, I think) which , I think again , every big Artist possesses. Her magnetism, in my opinion surpassed an average one hundred times. I’m not sure whether she knew all about that, but she felt it for sure.Voluntarily or not she manipulated people and they loved ( and still love) it. That is all about metaphysics , she might not realize it completely, yet used it easily. Apparently I’m speaking now about what you called “her combinations of strengths”. From the other hand I think those combinations of strenghts somehow correlated with vibrations, and those strengths could effortlessly ( for her) be transmitted via her voice. I do agree with you on that. My own experience of “perception” her strenghths is only from what I can feel and what I have learned from a beloved passed friend ( who listened to Callas in Paris when she was a young student, later on she became a famous mezzo at Opera Garnier).
            As for Anna Netrebko, I also feel that kind of magnetism of her, that’s why many people are so sad they cannot have some of it ( which is good for them for whatever reason) when she cancels.
            All people have different frequency range to feel content, so one of them like sopranos, other tenors , other just music etc. That’s why some are happy with one artist and some with another.
            I think I said much again. Just my opinion, of course 😉

          • Elsa says:

            This is the most perfect description of Callas that I have ever come across. You put into words what I have always thought about this great – but mythified and overrated – artist. Bravissimo!

        • Bruce says:

          “Cannot imagine myself without listening to her Casta Diva ;)”

          Well if that’s how you became like this, that’s a good reason for others to avoid it 😉

        • Pamela Brown says:

          Funny, I had forgotten all about Mr. Bing. But I will never forget Maria Callas!

      • Novagerio says:

        Yup. Do you imagine Gelb or Lissner or Pereira, or any lobbyist within the musical Wall Street run both Glyndebourne, the Edinburgh Festival and the Met, with the same legendarian results?…
        By the way, Alexander (is Schneider Siemssen by any chance your surname?), I’ve read far more Classic literature than you.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      And how many 20th century intendants can you name? Like him or hate him, Mr. Bing had a major career and impact.

    • Arthur Landells says:

      He was loved and feared in equal measure by many. Staff, singers, musicians alike. Callas may have been the most public but she was by no means the only one to get her marching orders.

      • Peter Phillips says:

        Someone apparently remarked to Bing that George Szell was his own worst enemy. “Not while I’m alive,” was Bing’s response.

    • Alexander says:

      Thanks to y’all, I ‘ve read your answers ( any way it was shorter than the Epilogue 😉 ). I would like to show my appreciation to you for being such responsive and attentive to my words ( that’s what Leo Tolstoy altogether with some other great people taught ( and still teach) us). We are all grown-up people and everyone will stay on one’s own ( with a touch of a little impact though 😉 . For me La Divina ( who has never written a book, as far as I know) remains at her singing and sunsequently her impact on a modern opera.So-to-speak a person who set standards of the Art. Mr Bing was a talented administrator who tried to advance standards for organizational structure and other technical parameters of the business. They cannot be judged by the same criterions. For bad or for good the Art is higher for me than business. Speaking proverbial “Ars longo business brevis”. I said too much now ( don’t like rants 😉 . Wish you well and see you soon 😉

  • sam says:

    Bing must have sensed, thus anticipated, Callas’s impending rapid decline, without of course knowing the medical cause, which proved to be dermatomyositis, a weakening of the connective tissues of her larynx, by post-mortem analysis.

    Until a manager with an astute ear senses a weakness in Netrebko’s voice, no one will blackball her.

    Ardis Krainik of the Lyric Opera of Chicago banned Pavarotti. Pavarotti did just fine without going to that midwest city. Chicago’s lost. Not that Chicago would’ve gained anything anyway since Pavarotti was already not showing up!

  • Jeesy says:

    So who are we to judge how people who are exhausted regain their strength? Spending some time with family and in the countryside sounds like a very good way to me.

    • Waltraud Becker says:

      With Elsa ahead the exhaustion can be understood; to high level….

    • Brian says:

      Maybe they should be lying in bed. Or at least on a couch watching Netflix? Frolicking in the countryside and attending weddings doesn’t meet many people’s definitions of rest.

      • Bill says:

        Only definition that matters: is she able to sing well after whatever she does to rest and recuperate? If I have a ticket, that’s what I’m going to care about.

      • Bruce says:

        I think in certain cases “exhaustion” means “I need a vacation.”

        Burnout is a real thing.

        • Elsa says:

          At the exact same time as her husband, that dreadful singer she carries everywhere? What sort of burnout is that? How can these people have so much contempt for their commitments and their audience that they not only go on busy and physically active vacations when they should be performing, but also don’t think even for a second that sharing all these pictures on Instagram might not be a good idea given their latest lame excuses?

  • RagnarDanneskjoeld says:

    “They are on a final warning.” Says who?

  • John Smith says:

    Final warning, lol

  • M McAlpine says:

    Must confess it amuses me how you try to make aggro out of nothing. If people are exhausted then pursuing leisure activities appears to me to be an excellent idea. Can anyone think of any better suggestions?

    • Tamino says:

      Yes, the moral police demands pictures of them lying in hospital beds, looking physically strained and pale, IV tubes up their arms.

      I think they should create one picture like that, just to make fun of the moral apostles.

    • Waltraud Becker says:

      Do it but be silent and do not post every days activities wold be my advice.

  • Bob says:

    The great and mighty Norman Lebrecht has spoken! Tremble at his power, ye artists!

  • Ludwig's Van says:

    Bing’s ensnaring of Callas through a letter of intent (which didn’t specify repertoire as of when she signed it) was a stroke of genius on his part. He then went ahead and handed her a vocally suicidal schedule that required her to alternate Bel Canto and heavy dramatic roles – which he must have known she wouldn’t do. So rather than making sensible repertoire adjustments, he sealed his path to immortality by “firing” her. But don’t give Bing’s attention-grabbing stunt the credit for Callas’ career demise: her dalliance with a Greek ship owner gets the credit for that.

  • Fedup says:

    On final warning? She’s PAST final warning. I can’t believe you wouldn’t even mention the countless racist actions she has performed and things she has said. The appalling comment about how sexual assault doesn’t happen in this industry? The use of blackface in her Aida’s and her absolute refusal to listen to the cries of her American audience pleading to stop. Her mocking of a Native American war cry in full ceremonial Native American clothing. Her all around nasty demeanor. But THIS is the final straw. Lol okay. There are thousands of sopranos in the world that are just as good – if not better – than Netrebko and a million high notes don’t make up for being a trash person.

    • Adelina Patti says:

      Finally a perceptive comment, Fedup. Her second American appearance was in Philadelphia as Giulietta in I Capuletti. O quante volte was one of the greatest I ever heard. Period. Then it was ALL DOWNHILL from there. Alas for us, she didn’t have any truly great divas (like those from 1950-1985) to keep her on her toes or to put her in her place.

    • lohengrinloh says:

      One should not project the American perspective on the entire world. Deal with your traumatic history and leave the rest of us enjoying art and music.

      And mind your language while talking about Anna Netrebko.

  • Peter says:

    I would say “Final warning” given the decreasing state of their voices, not their behaviour….
    But for this one has only to “open” their ears and listen well and also know something about opera, which is not really the case with too many managers 😉

  • Waltraud Becker says:

    Tosca at La Scala has Netrebko but no Cavaradossi till now; is that the first “official” warning?

  • Pedro says:

    I was at her Leonora, Maddalena and Adriana performances this last season and she always sang splendidly. Look forward to her Turandot and Elisabetta.

  • AndrewB says:

    I can more than understand the upset and anger of audience members who have paid to hear them. Burn out happens in many professions and I don’t think that Netrebko / Eyvazov are the worst for cancelling in the business.
    They have felt the need to be with family at this time. I certainly wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions about what is happening or why because we may find out more information later on.

    With regard to Callas and Bing in 1958 I believe he fired her because she was unwilling to sing the mixture of roles on offer – including Lady Macbeth which was eventually taken by Leonie Rysanek- and there had been a really tough and inconclusive negotiation period . In 1965 she returned to the Met to sing Tosca. Bing’s comment ‘ The return of a prodigal daughter is as great as the return of a prodigal son.’

    I guess we could all name fine singers who rarely cancelled. I was very fond of Ghena Dimitrova – such a vocal force of nature and just a great person. If the public booked to hear Ghena they heard her! She could be counted on to sing even with a bad cold . Who can forget when she sang both roles ( in the correct octave) in the third act duet from Tosca because her poor Cavaradossi’s voice had given out after ‘E lucevan le stelle?’ What an artist and a trouper!

  • Robert Scott says:

    People should keep their commitments.

    • Edgar says:

      Indeed. Which, if I were director of a major opera house, I would communicate clearly to the Netrebkos: you fulfill your contract and be here for all rehearsals and performances as stipulated. If you do not, then you are not to appear here and are welcome look for another stage to be absent on.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      Yes, it’s just good manners.

      In the pop world, JLo was visibly shaken and disappointed when her recent Madison Square Garden concert had to be stopped midway to evacuate the audience because of the Times Square blackout. She immediately moved to reschedule it.

  • lohengrinloh says:

    I feel blessed by living during ‘Netrebko Era’. I was very sceptical about her before hearing her life for the first time in Anna Bolena in Vienna. I saw her performing it 5 times. When she was signing the last scene the whole theatre was paralysed. I had the impression we are gravitating between heaven and earth. Afterwards, I saw her dozens of times and everytime I felt the same. I do not know any operafreak who would say Anna is fading away or she is close to the end of her career. She is the most treasured gift in music today!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Netrebko is a seriously over-rated and over-feted soprano.

  • Peter says:

    Anyone can give a warning.

    Only someone with power to decide actions can give a final warning.

  • Sycorax says:

    I think if I’d have paid a big amount for listening to a certain singer and then would get another one I’d be rather miffed, too. And I wouldn’t exactly understand a professional saying “I’m exhausted”. I’d wonder about her/his planing and her/his ability to estimate her/his workload. I sing planing so that one can fulfill one’s commitments is part of being a professional. I have to do that too – I know I need a certain time to write a novel and when I promise a publisher house to deliver the manuscript in September, I can’t take on another book in August.
    So I’ve found this “exhaustion” apology already a bit fishy – and now, looking at these pictures from the two oh-so-exhausted singers partying – I’m sure if I would have had tickets and would probably have travelled rather far to see one of them I’d be really upset.
    Sorry, but it doesn’t speak about appreciation for the audience and respect for the people who pay the tickets.

  • christopher storey says:

    This was the slippery slope that a certain hugely praised virtuoso embarked upon when he took on more than he could cope with and started regularly failing to appear for engagements . The result was the demolition of a top-notch career , at an early age, and within the space of about 3 years

  • Ines says:

    So were the Alagna -Gheorghiu couple some 15 yeras ago. And? I see he is appearing regularly at the Met, Roh etc.

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    Maria Callas was fired from the Met in 1958. She still had many fine years in front of her. The ‘decline’ was not a result of the firing but due to a number of other factors, the most egregious being that of the despicable philistine Aristotle Onassis. The fact that he ended up bitterly miserable with the equally deplorable Jackie Kennedy was karma payback par excellence. Whilst Callas will forever remain “La Divina” and Sutherland “La Stupenda”, Netrebko will never be more than “L’egocentrica”.

    • Baritonesa says:

      Yeah and because of that, she sang the famous Lisbon Traviata, so evertyhing worked out well in the end.

  • BrianB says:

    You don’t have to go back to Bing. Ardis Krainik fired Pavarotti out of Chicago for similar behavior. And William Mason sacked Angela Gheorghiu:
    “…Public criticism of performers by management is rare in classical music, but Lyric Opera general director William Mason took the unusual step of detailing the reasons for the dismissal.

    “Miss Gheorghiu has missed six of 10 rehearsals, including the piano dress rehearsal and both staging rehearsals with the orchestra,” Mason said. “She missed one of the most critical stage-orchestra rehearsals when she left the city for New York without permission, a direct violation of her contract.”

  • Frederik says:

    Amazing how many twatters are on this post going for Callas, when the post was about a provincial opera singer that would be forgotten soon after her career is over, the douche that’s her husband shouldn’t be mention as he is only known because of his wife’s powers over money grabbing directors that listen to poorly educated supporters that think the Russian flooze was magnificent! In ‘n hundred years from now, singers will still be compared to Callas, whether you think she was dreadful or not and Netrebko wouldn’t receive any credit for her supposedly great career!

  • Baritonesa says:

    It’s extremely exhausting to wear those clothes. Give them their due


    She has done 7 no-shows over the years on me when I have had tickets to see her, and although I think she is usually very good, and committed on stage, I long ago gave up assuming that it was worth expecting her to appear. A friend I know has about a 20% record of shows to no-shows and says he now takes Valium when buying tickets for her performances. Singers need to be careful of their voices, but am I alone in think that if Joyce DiDonato can sing with a broken ankle, some others could be a bit more attentive to their audiences and their professional commitments?

  • Patrick Byrne says:

    Callas downhill after Bing? Do your homework. Enormous successes across the world. Don’t write about something without due diligence.

  • Elsa says:

    This is by far one of the best things you have ever written, Norman. Bravo!!! I couldn’t agree more with you. On everything!

  • Dutchiw says:

    Good riddance! Netrebko is a mediocre singer and absolutely not of World class. Her husband is not even mediocre but a very bad singer… I think the people can get much better for their money, especially in Bayreuth! Netrebko in Lohengrin, don’t make me laugh.

  • Susan Harris says:

    Geez. You only live once. You make decisions for your own life, not opera houses or audiences who don’t even know you and will throw you under the bus. More power to them I say. Sooner or later we’ll all be decaying in a grave. Live with no regrets to the best of your ability. And stop judging and condemning others. God is in charge; not you.