Evgeny Kissin attacks Netrebkos over Azerbaijan war

Evgeny Kissin attacks Netrebkos over Azerbaijan war


norman lebrecht

October 12, 2020

The pianist has expressed his views on a Russian chat site:

“You and I are of the same blood – you and me!”   (Kipling. “Mowgli”)  Life brings surprises every now and then. I never thought that I might have a desire to quote Vladimir Ilyich, but now – well, my hands are just itching to do it!   Recently, my colleague Yusif Eyvazov posted on his Instagram page a photo of Ilham Aliyev with the inscription “ WE ARE PROUD OF OUR PRESIDENT ” and numerous icons of gratitude and love, as well as the following text (I keep the author’s spelling and punctuation):   ” My dear compatriots! My dear Azerbaijani people! For several days now our Motherland has been living in war conditions and of course we are all waiting for all this to end and when justice will prevail and Our lands will be returned!

But this post is not about that .. this post is about YOU MY DEAR AZERBAIJANIS AND CITIZENS OF AZERBAIJAN AND ALL THOSE WHO LIVE AS IN AZERBAIJAN and beyond … we are close to each other as never before … I simply do not have words to express my endless gratitude to you all, for being Azerbaijanis, for the fact that we are all of the same blood, for the fact that you are brave and truthful, for the fact that you are honest and generous … I know that everything will be fine,and I really look forward to meeting all the guys who on Instagram express their positions in order to hug each of you, look into the eyes of the Great Citizens of the Great Country, Representatives of the Great Azerbaijan Nation! I love you very much !!! 🇦🇿❤ ”.

For reference: according to the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index for 2019, Azerbaijan is an authoritarian regime and is ranked 146th in the world out of 167 countries in terms of democracy (below Zimbabwe, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, etc.), and according to the organization ‘ Reporters Without Borders for 2020, in terms of press freedom, Azerbaijan ranks 168th out of 180 countries in the world (below Russia, Belarus, etc.).   And such a state, Mr. Eyvazov calls a “great country”, its subjects – “great citizens”, and is proud of its dictator!

   I really don’t want, of course, to stoop to personal insults, especially to a colleague, but here I just can’t help remembering (as not an insult, but just a reminder) the famous words that the great Baku resident Lev Landau, being in Stalin’s prison, loved to quote to his cellmates, who praised the “ leader and teacher ”: “No one is to blame if he was born a slave; but a slave who not only shuns aspirations for his freedom, but justifies and embellishes his slavery <…> such a slave is a lackey and boor who causes a legitimate feeling of indignation, contempt and disgust. ”


UPDATE: Yusif responds to Kissin – ‘sod off!’

Or in his own words: ‘I would never have thought that Evgeni would need an ad with my name on it.Well, well. I will not answer, my position stays the same.’

The message was later taken down.


  • IP says:

    Wow. Just watch the Annas and the Olgas now. The same sensitive connoisseurs of Russian musical culture.

    • Olga says:

      If this is a stone in the garden of Russian fans – I will say directly.. Yes, for Russia and its culture – we will fight to the end..But neither Netrebko nor the more incompetent her husband in this situation we do not support. By the way ,your democratic Facebook banned the famous Maria Gulegina-for the same nationalist views, only Pro-Armenian. Will you also ban them? or Netrebko’s fault-only that she is Russian and not against Putin..Then we have to yell – down with the regime ,down with Putin, down with the Russian world, long live Ukriana and the Baltic States-then you are a good musician:-))) Yes, Norman??

    • Bash says:

      Well, The RussIans are supporting the Armenians in this conflict. What does Mrs. Eyvazov have to say about this letter? Or has she wisely decided to keep out of it.

  • Doc Martin says:

    He has the wrong Kipling quote. it should of course be If.

    IF you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

    If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    ‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
    if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

    • Lady Weidenfeld says:

      I am afraid YOU are wrong Doc Martin and you would not easily catch Kissin out on a mis-quotation! He is probably better versed than most English people In English literature! You quote Kipling’s most famous poem but Kissin was quoting from his Jungle Book of stories for Children about Mogli the man-cub brought up by wolves. More appropriate to his courageous and wonderfully written piece than “If”
      by Kipling!

      • Would be wonderful if EK would translate the poetry into Yiddish

      • Doc Martin says:

        I am not a fan of Russians. They cannot play Beethoven!

        I think you are in the realms of fantasy. You are certainly no Lady and I am no Englishman.

        • Novagerio says:

          Are you a troll Doc? Ever heard Gilels play Beethoven? Or Yudina? And dare I say Richter? Or Ashkenazy?…Wait, why am I even bothering…

      • McBreen says:

        I think DM meant If is a more interesting quote rather than a misquote. You should not assume folk on here are all English, some Irish folk know more about literature than both Russian and the English.

      • Bob the Buider says:

        The fact is Russia is not really a democracy with Rasputin running it.

      • Someone Else says:

        In the last 100 years, every single child in Russia has read the ‘Mogli’ book, along with ‘Winnie-the -Pooh’. Referencing it is no proof of erudition.

  • Roland Schilz says:

    Bravo Evgeny Kissin!! And we have another chance to answer to Netrebko and her husband: Don’t buy their CDs, don’t visit their concerts, tell the opera houses of this world to ban them. BOTH Netrebko and Eyvazov!! Music shall unite; music doesn’t need people who divide and support dictators.

    • SVM says:

      Could we please refrain from calls to boycott individual artists due to their political views.

      • Roland says:

        Not in this case! Not if someone who´s voice has weight – at least in his country – pays homage to a dictator and instigates his people to fight against and supports war against another nation! I don´t want to see such an artist on stage!

  • michelle says:

    eyvazov should just shut his mouth with the bs politics and be happy (extremely happy) that he has so many bookings thanks to his overrated and increasingly horrible sounding wife.

  • M McAlpine says:

    No doubt Mr Kissin is also proud of his president, Mr Putin I believe. Haven’t you had words about him, Norman?

    • Andy says:

      What makes you think that? He left Russia in 1991, as soon as he possibly could – has he expressed any pride for Putin? He’s also given concerts in support of Russian political prisoners.

    • Lady Weidenfeld says:

      If you want him to write about Putin here there won’t be much room for anything else! There is no love lost there. This is not supposed to be a political website and he was responding in horror to a fellow artist’s support of the Azerbaijan dictatorship.

    • Paganono says:

      Kissin rarely performs in Russia, and has never uttered a single word of support for Putin.

  • Gustavo says:

    “The message was later taken down.”

    And Kissin was sent to Siberia.

  • Novagerio says:

    A mediocre nobody who got a free ride by his wife, and in dire need of constant media-attention, now bashing an international piano genius. You couldn’t make this up…
    Sod off yourself from the serious opera business Mr.Eyvazov!

  • Nick says:

    BRAVO ZHENIA!!! Kissin’s brilliance, intelligence and sense of fairness never fails!! Bravo, Kissin!!

  • sam says:

    The Netrebkos are a couple of illiterate hicks.

    I used to think it was their poor grasp of the basics of English (which, even if it were the case, could’ve been easily remedied by using Google Translate), but Mrs and Mr Netrebko’s posts are devoid of any intelligent content whatsoever.

    Kissin, multilingually literary and citing the Economist, completely flies over their empty heads, casting pearls before swines who can only grunt in monosyllables.

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    I applaud Mr. Kissin for speaking up in favor of protecting democracy around the world. He certainly did not have to do that. BUT, I am thankful he did. Artists of Mr. Kissin’s renown have clout and his words matter. BRAVO!

  • Karl says:

    Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan.

    Maybe Kissin should have a go at negotiating a peace deal.

    • MacroV says:

      I don’t think anyone here needs a lesson about that. The issue here is Azerbaijan launching a military offensive to take it back, and Eyvazov’s cheerleading.

      • Karl says:

        By what I have been reading it seems that people did not know that. I didn’t, but I did a quick google search. Look before you leap.

    • againstbigotry says:

      Karl, the entire war in the 1990’s began because the region, like every other Soviet bloc country that voted for independence, voted almost unanimously to break from both the Soviet Union and Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan responded with pogroms of Armenians in cities like Baku proper and a full on war with Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.

      The UN documents actually have little to do with Nagorno-Karabakh’s territorial integrity. The UN does NOT have a de jure recognition function, so it has never discussed & recognized the legal status of any region of the world. The UN SC 4 resolutions were NOT and CANNOT be the documents that de jure recognize the status of Karabakh & its adjacent regions.The UN security council has NEVER discussed the settlement of the conflict, hasn’t proposed any solution. In 1993, they adopted 4 resolutions preventing the geo spread of hostilities & threatening other countries’ involvement, including Turkey, Armenia, Russia, etc. The main demand was the ceasefire and resumption of negotiation processes. Over the next 25 years, Azerbaijan has actually violated numerous demands made by the UN, such as opening the borders and roads. Most recently, they with the help of Turkey have broken the ceasefire by sending in Azeri forces, Turkish aircraft, and even Syrian mercenaries recruited from Turkey

  • Derek Smith says:

    Mr netrebko is less than a mediocre artist, who is having a glorious career and singing in top houses worldwide only because netrebko is blackmailing those houses with her cancellations. I am shocked how the ROH or La Scala could hire such one dimensional, boring artist with ridiculous stage craft, ugly voice and no charisma whatsoever. This is the fault of the casting directors and the conductors of top houses who not only tolerate such low quality of artistry, but also give them stage, exposure and credit enabling them to open their filthy mouths and from their high podiums support and justify killing innocent people. This eyvazov person should be banned from all the companies.
    Have you forgotten the scandal in Dresden last year, when he demanded for an Armenian singer to be fired from a concert otherwise he wouldn’t sing in the same concert?! What TF!!!!
    The horrible singing we all encountered at the ROH when he sung in Forza del Destino and Macbeth, or the absolute disgrace of Andrea Chenier in La Scala… Why are we allowing this to go on? I made a rule for myself to never pay for their concerts, never attend them and never buy their CDs.
    Unfortunately the casting people stopped listening to their audiences. The audiences have become stupid and manipulated by the recording companies (thankfully slowly dying) and people have lost the knowledge of what is a really good singing. For example the DG is desparately trying to make a star out of Aida Garrifulina, who is a nice enough singer with very limited voice and is being pushed everywhere and anywhere as the next big thing, which she can never be. So why are they pushing her on to us from all the possible channels? Because she looks good?! This, of course, also impacting the education and the options for poor singers. They are now thrown into too big roles too soon, because the market is looking for the next young thing, rather than looking for the next GOOD thing! There are no conductors or casting directors who would develop careers anymore, noone takes care of the singing technique and the vocal development like Richard Bonynge did for Dame Joan. The singers are not taught how to have a lasting career and what is a really good, classy singing. Most importantly, the singers are not intellectuals anymore who understand what a responsibility it is to have a podium and that they must use that podium to unite and inspire people rather than encourage killing more poeple. This is a shame all around. I and all my opera punter friends are boycotting netrebko and her husband.

  • Sharon says:

    If I am correct both Azerbaijan and Armenia are seeking entrance into the EU. Why isn’t the EU demanding a cease fire and starting negotiations. For that matter, where’s NATO or the UN blue helmets?

  • Paganono says:

    Well, Mr. Eyvazov-Netrebko, Evgeny Kissin didn’t need to marry a famous person in order to make a great career, nor did he need to kiss a dictator’s arse in order to get work.

  • Papageno says:

    Kipling was a bigoted British colonialist sending his only son to fight (and die) needlessly in WW1.
    I wouldn’t read his books or quote him.
    However I agree with Kissin.

    • V. Lind says:

      Kipling’s son, like many of his generation, was desperate to go to war. His father used his connections to get him into the army (the boy’s sight meant he could nto get into the navy). The boy was killed shortly after arriving at the front, and Kipling grieved over his loss the rest of his life. They may all be long dead, but that is no reason to be so heartless.

      And think whatever you wish about his politics. It does not stop him from being a great writer, any more than Wagner’s anti-Semitism keeps him from being a great composer. Read the great poem he wrote for his son — some of it quoted above — before you write him off. And most literate parents would not deprive their children of some of Kipling’s wonderful stories for children, and literate adults would not deprive themselves of his stories for them. I remember being very moved by The Light That Failed when I first encountered it. And I grew up, born a few years after another war than the one to which you refer, hearing Kipling’s Recessional sung at many ceremonies with genuine feeling. And, in jollier circumstances, hearing my dad’s generation singing The Road to Mandalay.

      So let your own bigotry deprive you if you wish. I am getting heartily sick of people judging those who lived over a century ago on the politically expedient diktats of today. Not how history works.

  • V. Lind says:

    It seems to me this joke about “the Netrebkos” has gone far enough. We all get the point that this man is riding the coat-tails of his more famous and successful wife. They have both demonstrated a certain amount of vulgarity in their social media chunterings, but they are hardly alone in that.

    But this headline says “Evgeny Kissin attacks Netrebkos over Azerbaijan war.” Two points: there is absolutely no mention of Anna Netrebko in Kissin’s statement. And to the best of my knowledge, she has not commented publicly on the current conflict. It might be inferred that she is in agreement with her husband, but that is all it is — an inference. She is not Azeri, and may privately have a different view.

    In any case, Mr. Kissin is offering a critical view of Mr. Eyvazov’s utterances on recent events and the broader issues at stake. There are no “Netrebkos,” and there is no Netrebko in this story. Perpetuating this nomenclature, which has run through this thread, is as vulgar as anything the couple posts on their various tweets and instagrams and facebooks. And, in this case, perhaps inaccurate.

    • Derek Smith says:

      I am afraid, you are wrong. Netrebko didn’t make a specific post to support these atrocities, but I’ve been shown and translated her active comments under her husband’s vulgar posts and they are not much different. Mr is obviously more stupid to be making such public statements and engaging in responding Kissin, however, she has maybe learnt her lesson after openly supporting the Ukrainian separatists by donating a quarter of a million and openly supporting them back when the war just started. We have been outraged by her actions and protested against her and Gergiev, another filthy character, ahead of their concerts in London. What do you think happened after that? – nothing! Everyone forgot about it quickly and 3 years later they were booked again by British producers. Utter shame to all the art organisations. I hope the ROH will know better before getting them back anytime soon.

  • MacroV says:

    I wish people would stop trashing Eyvazov as a performer. They may be right, but the statement he made should be judged on its own merits; it would be no more justifiable coming from a universally admired artist.

    Kissin’s response is great not so much because he’s one of the great pianists of our time, but because he is known to be a well-read, scholarly, and thoughtful artist, who doesn’t speak often so when he does, it carries weight; his quoting Kipling is entirely in character with his reputation.

  • EdgarSelf says:

    Among T. S. Eliot’s unexpected enthusiasms were Groucho Marx and Kipling. He wrote an admiring introduction to a collection of Kipling’s verse. The sad story of Kipling and his son that V. Lind relates was dramatised on PBS here.

    • V. Lind says:

      I remember that film: written by as well as starring the great David Haig. A masterpiece. And Daniel Radcliffe, proving yet again that he was far more than Harry Potter (as he has done in all his subsequent work). Both were so physically similar to the Kiplings that it was eerie.

      Not sure I find Eliot’s enthusiasm for Kipling “unexpected.” He was still being widely read in Eliot’s day, and no less discerning a reader than Henry James deemed him a genius.

      Thanks for reminding me of the film. It’s online and I will rewatch it soon — perhaps saving it for Nov. 11, which is when it was originally broadcast in the UK.

  • Edgar Self says:

    V. Lind — Servant. You are right. Henry James, Jr., and Thomas Stearns Eliot both were Americn ex-pats choosing to live in Victorian, or post-Victorian, England at the height of Empire, and so … Kipling. Let us hope they did not see Max Beerbohm’s caricature.

    James even became a British subject shortly before his death, typically by sending a note round to his friend the prime minister. As an avid reader of all three, and of their contemporary Bernard Shaw, I still found Eliot’s enthusiasm for Kipling a little surprising. Yet upon reflexion it is not uncharacteristic, as you suggest.

    • V. Lind says:

      Our reading tastes would appear to have some considerable overlap.

      Major Barbara is on BBC Radio 4 Extra next Monday and Tuesday!

  • Edgar Self says:

    If it’s Shaw’s “Major Barbara” with Wendy Hiller, I’d love to see it again. And even if not. A certain overlap does seem to exist and make discussion possible..