Reports: Eyvazov refuses to sing with Armenian

Reports: Eyvazov refuses to sing with Armenian


norman lebrecht

January 13, 2020

We’ve received a number of reports about a racial incident at Dresden’s State Opera against the backdrop of regional politics.

The Dresden opera house is due to stage its annual ball on February 7.

Two singers were invited – a certainn American tenor and the Armenian soprano Ruzan Mantashyan. They were scheduled to sing at least one duet. Mantashyan agreed, but the American was unavailable.

The opera house rang around and replaced him with Yusif Eyvazov, husband of the superstar soprano Anna Netrebko.

Eyvazov agreed to sing – until he learned that he was appearing with a soprano from Armenia.

Eyvazov is an Azeri. Armenia and Azarbaijan are bad neighbours, with frequent flare-ups between them.

Evvazov not only refused to sing with Mantashyan but, it is reported, he demanded that she be fired from the programme.

So the Dresden organisers got rid of the soprano in order to retain Eyvazov.

We have been unable to obtain confirmation so far from any of the principals, but the reports are widespread, coming from both partisan countries, from Germany and from France (where Mantashyan is based).

UPDATE: Dresden denies bits


  • MacroV says:

    I’ll give Eyvazov the benefit of the doubt and assume he would suffer political consequences at home were he to perform with Mantashyan. But he doesn’t have the right to keep her off the program; the Dresden Opera should have said “fine, you don’t have to sing with her, but you can’t tell us who we can have performing here.” So shame on them for that.

    BTW, “Azeri” refers to ethnicity, “Azerbaijani” to nationality. Eyvazov is both. But in this context “Azerbaijani” would be more appropriate since the dispute is political rather than ethnic.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Ummmm….MacroV, there’s a small matter of Genocide to consider here that the Armenians suffered at the hands of the Turks and their fellow brethren the Azeris (who are a Turkish people), but let’s not go there. I always hate it when others bring non-musical topics into this forum, so I’m not going to do that myself.

      If Germany had not accepted responsibility for perpetrating the Holocaust, the parallel here would be a German singer refusing to sing with an Israeli singer.

      At least the Germans accepted responsibility for the horrors of what they did to the Jews and have paid reparations (not that reparations are even possible). The Turks have done no such thing on any front–accepted responsibility, or paid reparations.

      • MacroV says:

        You did go there. I don’t think I defended Azerbaijan in any way. And I’m no fan of Turkey (even when they were a bit more pro-EU) because of their intransigence on the Armenian genocide.

    • Studioso says:

      Slovak, Slovakian; Slovene, Slovenian; “Switzerland cheese.” Who says Azeri can’t refer to nationality too? Short forms are better, and the ethnicity distinction is in any case latter-day and academic.

    • againstbigotry says:

      I don’t think we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt if it’s a political question. He is married to one of the most famous performers in that part of the world, which protects him quite a bit, and sucks up to Aliyev, an incredibly conservative leader with multiple human rights counts against him, constantly. He doesn’t live in Azerbaijan at this point. Azerbaijani singers with far less going for them perform with Armenians all the time (Dinara Alieva, Elchin Azizov) on world stages with no issue. Shame on him and also wtf is wrong with the Semperoper for agreeing to this stupid demand?

  • Greg Bottini says:

    God, I hate this kind of thing.
    Music is supposed to be a unifier, a balm, a blessed relief from the world’s nastiness.
    If this story is true, Eyvazov should get a grip or find another line of work (cultural adviser at the White House, perhaps?).

  • Hypocrite says:

    Eyvazov doesn’t want to sing with an Armenian, but yet he had no problem marrying someone from the country that once incorporated Azerbaijan into the Soviet Union and controlled it for 70 years in order to make up for his lack of talent!

    What a hypocrite!

    • Ferdinand says:

      That’s because the Armenian soprano doesn’t have the clout that Netrebko has to push Eyvazov into an ill-deserved international career in spite of displaying one of the UGLIEST and most technically deficient voices amongst the top (pseudo) “stars” of today’s opera world. The opera in Dresden should be ashamed of itself.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Is there such a shortage of tenors that the soprano had to be fired instead?

    And how does that work? I presume she had a contract and still gets paid, right?

  • Tom Moore says:


  • nomen nescio says:

    Bye, Dresden Horror Show.

  • Steve says:

    Eyvazov could have declined discreetly and left it at that. But to have the arrogance to make such demands… oh well, that really doesn’t speak well of his character to say the least. And shame on Dresden for going along with this.

  • Anastasia Sokolova says:

    What a pathetic jerk, and the Semperoper dances to his tune. Shame on you Yusif, shame on you Semperoper.

  • Tiredofitall says:

    Shades of bad conduct to come, emboldened by his recent triumphs? He could find himself persona non grata, despite his union with Anna.

  • AB says:

    This looks very much like a special thing for him. I was astonished that at the concert in Moscow featuring Ildar Abdrazakov, Gubanova, Luca Saldi, Netrebko and Yusif, conducted by Konstantin Orbelyan (an Armenian conductor), the arias and duets of Netrebko/Eyvazov were conducted by Pavel Klinikchef from the Bolshoi. Very strange way to put the Gala together – if Netrebko and Yusif bring another conductor just for them. Maybe, the origins of a Orbelyan were a reason?

    Here at the news report one can definitely see the change of the conductor.

    • againstbigotry says:

      I assume so. It was no problem for Netrebko to perform with Orbelian when she sang concerts with Hvorostovsky. It’s definitely not from Orbelian’s side, since he works with Azeri singers frequently (he recorded Alieva’s album!) and is generally loved by singers.

  • Sanity says:

    Why are they hiring him. He can’t bloody well sing.

  • Nurhan Arman says:

    This is disgusting, shame on Dresden State Opera for giving in to this mediocre singer’s hate and racism! Keeping faith and hope in humanity next month Sinfonia Toronto will be presenting a concert titled Musical Bridges – Komitas@150. An Armenian myself, I have invited as soloists a Turkish mezzosoprano and an Armenian violinist. They’ll be happily performing in a program of Armenian and Turkish composers along with Bartok and Skalkottas. The universal language of music and the collaboration of musicians should deliver a message of hope and peace. I would have hoped that in the 21st century Germany a state opera would not have not allowed itself to become an instrument of hate.

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    They should have got rid of Eyvazov instead, but that would have upset his wife obviously. They can not afford to be in bad terms with Anna Netrebko. A bit unjust.

  • Sylvia Greenberg says:

    Singers should stay out of politics, whenever possible.
    Shame on him to have the soprano fired, shame on the organizers for letting themselves be pressured in firing her.

  • V.Lind says:

    Well, he has just proved himself cretinous, but the behaviour of the organisers is craven, and a disgrace. Not to mention a bad precedent: it opens the way for all sorts of disputes to be introduced to future hirings.

    But it also makes you wonder if some of the women who feared Domingo’s influence if they did not please him may have been on to something. This far less important tenor hired as a replacement, has managed to get a company to ditch the soprano, who was an original hire.

  • Fernando says:

    But Eyvazov didn’t refuse to sing Herman last year in a Bolshoi ‘Pique Dame’ with Armenian baritone Gevorg Hakobyan as Tomsky, and they appear together in the photos of that production.

  • Debütant says:

    Just for the record: This opera ball is organised by the “Semper Opernball e.V.” which is a registered association, led by its Chairman Hans-Joachim Frey. Mr Frey is Founder and Artistic Director of the Opernball, Head of the Cultual Centre in Sochi, Russia, and a good friend of Vladimir Putin… The Artistic Directorate and General Artistic Management of the Semperoper, Dresden’s State Opera, is not involved and not responsible for this weird event.

  • Beaumont says:

    It could have been much worse:

  • Max says:

    Can you please tell us where you have this information from and if it is confirmed?

  • Peter says:

    What is absolutely ridiculous and revolting in today’s opera scenery: the opera managers/ directors/ intendants accepting to hire such poor voices because of their marital status or influence! Is everybody today really that deaf?? I refuse to believe this! They are not and never will be real stars as they are not that talented, they are a fraud in the opera world and everybody accepting this is a complice!
    The same that happens to Yusif (Mr Netrebko) is what happens to Kurzak (Mrs Alagna) and I find it outrageous as the level of these singers is so different (so so low) than the one of their spouses!
    And now they are also allowed to behave like this, to be racists and to even dictate depending on their political views?? Enough already!

  • Tamino says:

    Shame on Dresden. Shame on Eyvazov.
    The good part for the Armenian soprano: she now doesn‘t have to perform in one of the most pretentious, cheesy, fake and tasteless events ever, the Dresden Opera ball.

  • There you go says:

    That’s what happens when you give Borat (and his wife) too much power. Shameful and unacceptable on the part of Semperoper who released a statement written in broken English.

  • Basstenor says:

    Overrated tenor, should have been fired instead. Either do your job or walk. Walk would have been better in this case. he only gets his stardom from his wife.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    This comes to mind

  • Sharon says:

    I am not from the music world, but this sounds so crazy, especially if Eyvazov and his wife have worked with Armenians before, that I suspect that there may be more to the story.

    Either the Russian or Azerbaijan cultural ministry told him not to do it or more likely, there may be another reason, like Eyvazov believin that he would be negatively reviewed, unfavorably compared to Mantashyan, or that singing with her would not be flattering to his performance in some way.

  • WJM says:

    There seems to be a statement issued by Semper Oper which sheds a completly different light on the incident, see report in OperaWire

  • LewesBird says:

    How exactly is this incident “racial” — do Azeris and Armenians belong to different races? Please explain.

  • Kolb Slaw says:

    Imagine if they had added a Georgian to the program…