Dresden Opera Ball in doubt as two presenters pull out

Dresden Opera Ball in doubt as two presenters pull out


norman lebrecht

February 03, 2020

A second celebrity presenter has withdrawn from the SemperOper Ball after a series of self-inflicted disasters involving Anna Netrebko’s husband and the miltary dictator of Egypt.

First, it was alleged that Yusif Eyvazov announced that he would not sing with an Armenian soprano. The Armenian was fired. Eyvazov denied any such intention. The Armenian was reinstated.

Then the ball organiser Hans-Joachim Frey bestowed an award on Egypt’s president, General Sisi.

The TV news presenter Judith Rakers quickly resigned as master of ceremonies over the politicisation of the event. Yesterday her substitute, Mareile Höppner, did the same, claiming she had been exposed to an ‘intolerable level of hatred’ on social media.

Frey, whose other activities are closely connected to the Putin regime in Russia, is looking increasingly fragile.


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    That award to General Sisi is the most bizarre thing that I have heard. They may as well cancel this fiasco of an event.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      It’s not bizarre at all, Mustafa. General Sisi is a well known opera lover–weren’t you aware of this? He loves jailing opera singers who protest his dictatorial rule as much as anyone else.

  • Steve says:

    Looks like Frey/Semper Opera Ball are going to have to learn the hard way like the German Echo Awards…

  • Charles says:

    They should write an opera about these shenanigans.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I don’t understand why anyone working with or for an established European cultural institution would want to be connected to the rurian current regime, in a time where Russia slyly tries to undermine European unity and interests. Have cultural ties with Russian artists, yes, but the regime?

    • Tamino says:

      No idea where you are coming from. Europe must collaborate with Russia peacefully. The one who is undermining European unity is the US, for obvious reasons, and they are not even subtle about that. Regimes come and go, Putin’s style is not our cup of tea somehow (but is Trump’s btw?), Russia has a long way to go toward a prosperous future, but the European unity and peaceful future is more important than some old calcified cold ware brainwashed minds in the west, who can’t get over the stigma of the evil Russkies they were immersed in since they can think.

      • Brettermeier says:

        “The one who is undermining European unity is the US, for obvious reasons, and they are not even subtle about that.”

        You are probably right. But the same reasons apply to Russia. Both benefit from a weakened Europe. And it’s Russia, not the US, sponsoring right-wing parties in Europe. Now, why would that be… 😉

        “Russia has a long way to go toward a prosperous future”

        Yes. Or to be an industrialized nation. That’s why they are MUCH less interesting than the US (economically speaking. Russia’s GDP < Texas' GDP < Italy's GDP. Just saying.)

        "but the European unity and peaceful future is more important than some old calcified cold ware brainwashed minds in the west"

        Sure, but not for Russia, as they stand to gain from a weakened Europe. (As do the major players, like China or the US.)

      • Hmus says:

        Your seem unaware of how much effort Putin put in to the appointment of Trump by electoral college manipulation after he lost the election by 3 million votes. Any damage the US is doing to Eiuropean unity is also, directly, Putin’s doing.

        • Tamino says:

          And you actually believe that nonsense? Who told you this?
          Wow, that Putin guy must be extremely powerful, simply deciding the US elections by his own will. LMAO

  • Stephan says:

    Dear Norman Lebrecht,

    please correct the sentence “Yusif Eyvazov announced he would not sing with Armenian soprano” as it contains false information.These accusations were made by Massis Opera Agency and were not proven. The tenor had signed the contract for a solo performance two years ago, not a duet.

    Best regards.

    • Againstbigotry says:

      Hi Stephan,

      Please correct your sentence “the tenor had signed a contract for a solo performance two years ago, not a duet.” The ball does not contract singers with two years’ notice, and Mantashyan’s participation was announced weeks, if not months, before Eyvasov’s. If you’d like to say that the massis agency made the accusation, I suppose we can do so. But then let’s also say: “Eyvasov’s Manager at Centre stage artist management conveyed to the Dresden Opera Ball that his client would not take part in this concert with a singer on purely xenophobic grounds.” Let’s also say: “Shortly after these accusations by the massis agency were made public, Eyvasov found it appropriate to mock the rising singer publicly via social media, claiming she has done this purely for publicity. Why someone in the right should feel justified in such a vulgar and classless move is beyond the mindset of anyone who is not a sniveling, groveling today to his far more talented, if politically oblivious, spouse.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Dear “Stephan”,

      Thank you for this posting. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. I can now tell you that I’m done attending any performances where Mr. Eyvazov will be appearing in the future. Ever. I won’t be missing much, because the one time I heard him live at the Met, he underwhelmed me. So I really won’t be missing much, as he’s hardly a talent. But this effort of yours to obfuscate what really happened crosses the line. At a time when the Met and everyone else is having difficulties selling tickets, you can be assured they will be selling at least one less ticket because Mr. Eyvazov is a racist neanderthal. And because of flunkees like you who enable/support him.

      Herr Doktor

      • Sanity says:

        Bravo!!! There is nothing more pathetic and doomed to failure than these people who come to this blog all the time desperate to defend this dreadful, third rate singer. And now, thanks to this horrible episode, his poor singing is not anymore the only theme they have to struggle with!

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Oh, well, that DOES make all the difference. I hadn’t done the processing to split those hairs. Thanks.

    • Saxon Broken says:


      Yusif Eyvazov can always sue Norman for libel if it isn’t true and he feels he has been damaged by the accusation.

      • Sanity says:

        Precisely! And Mr. Netrebko will not sue Norman or anyone else, for he knows all too well that this accusation is absolutely true.

  • Peter says:

    I would never buy a ticket to listen to such terrible category F singer like this tenor, performing on all the big stages just because of his spouse!
    If this means that I will loose the opportunity to see his wife, then so be it…. Not such a great loss in the end!
    Dresden should immediately cancel his Don Carlo this summer – how is it possible to schedule a new production of such a grand opera with this tenor singing the title role?!? Just because his wife will be tackling the role of Elisabetta? Enough already! What is wrong with the opera directors hiring these poor voices, how can they accept this, are they all deaf today?
    His Calaf in Munich was an embarrassment to the house and to opera in general, according to my friend who was there, so shame on them!
    I hope Dresden audiences will show him the exact “appreciation” that he deserves… by not showing up or by “cheering“ him accordingly!
    Isn’t everybody tired of these opera frauds as Herr Yusif and Frau Kurzak? I am!

    • Alviano says:

      Is Yusif really that bad? How many people complaining about him have actually heard him? I have read good notices for him too.

      Personally, I hope people turn in their DC tickets. I’ll be there in a flash! Then I will know who’s good and who’s not.

      • Herr Doktor says:

        I have heard him live in Turandot as Calaf. He is a mediocrity at best–definitely outsung by everyone else on the stage–and in my opinion unworthy of consideration as a leading anything. Were he not Mr. Netrebko, his superstardom would be limited to the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater. And beyond that, perhaps the Baton Rouge Opera.

    • Sanity says:

      Absolutely tired!!! So very well said, Peter.