Fact check: Netrebko’s regret cannot conceal her past

Fact check: Netrebko’s regret cannot conceal her past


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2022

A statement by Anna Netrebko that she is ‘opposed to the war’ may provide cover for opera houses who still want to engage her.

Zurich, for instance, where she is due to sing Verdi’s Lady Macbeth twice at the end of March.

Artistic director Andreas Homoki says: ‘The Zurich Opera House has a binding employment contract with Ms. Netrebko. For us as an employer, there is no legal basis for asking employees about their political, religious or sexual orientation.’

So that’s clear enough for those who want to maintain the ostrich position. The trouble is Ms Netrebko has prior form in this conflict.

In 2014 she was pictured handing a gift of one million rubles to a leader of the Russian-backed Crimea separatists, Oleg Tsarev, holding the illegal Novorossiya flag together.

Anna Netrebko has taken a position in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. These are matters of public record.



  • A.L. says:

    Thank you, Mr. Lebrecht, for reminding the world about what Anna Netrebko stands for and who she stands with.

    • Impartial says:

      That was 8 years ago. You claim people can’t drastically change in 8 years? Remember yourself 8 years ago. I bet you were very different back then.
      Don’t let xenophobia blind your judgment.
      What you do now is called scapegoating. Not a very adult thing to do…
      Guess tribalism is still very much alive in the 21st century! So easy to dehumanise ‘thems’ and blame them for all the evils of the world. At least we have a little bit of civilisation going these days, otherwise people such as Mrs.Netrebko would be hanged in public by mobs made out of people such as yourself, wouldn’t they!

      • A.L. says:

        8 years my *ss. Xenophobia my *ss. Scapegoating my *ss. You attack the messenger, you defend the indefensible. But the proof is in the pudding.

      • guest says:

        Please, dear Impartial, look up in a lexicon words you don’t understand, before using them. That “tribalism” was hilarious. If anything, I suspect _you_ of tribalism. And calm down. No one dehumanizes Ms Netrebko (you may want to look up “dehumanize” too once you get hold of that lexicon). No one blames Ms Netrebko for all the evils of the world. No one “blames” her for anything, her political orientation is a known fact. That “little bit of civilization” is certainly not going on in Russia these days.
        And, dear Impartial, don’t bet about things you can’t prove.

      • Kathleen E King says:

        This is not so much tribalism, as a recognition that she has given a lot of money as well as vocal support to not only Putin but those forces opposed to Ukrainian sovereignty. These same houses have been very quick to punish others, especially men, on a mere allegation of sexual misconduct. Acts of war are about as serious as it gets. She has picked her position, let her sing in Moscow.

      • IP says:

        Sure. And what Hitler did in 39 was over 80 years ago — I guess you are impartially surprised that people see the parallels.

      • Antonia says:

        Then, let her address her past support of Russian imperialism against Ukraine and admit publicly she made a mistake.

      • Al O says:

        Anna Nebtrenko wasn’t a child 8 years ago, she was an adult in her 40s. If she has changed her position and now repudiates Putin and the separatists she gave her money and the glow of her celebrity, then let her say so. But she remains responsible for her actions and previously stated views as an adult, as we all do.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Nail your colours to the mast and endure the consequences.

  • V.Lind says:

    Switzerland is historically a neutral country. That pretty much makes their statement pro forma.

    There are various views on neutrality, but it was damned useful in WW II.

    • - says:

      So neutral that during WWII they accepted a strangely huge amount of tooth gold for their banks. All pro forma, you understand.


      • Harpist says:

        Did you read her statement even? i did. She said she is against war but did not mentioned Russia as aggressor in one word. And then continued to rant against people posting from their comfy chair and that there is no real side to take for an artist. Ridiculous.

        • Iris says:

          Exactly! And she is not alone who says empty words without claiming anything. She has to go! And shame on Zurich opera, I loved you dearly, but not anymore.

    • Nick says:

      Neutral?!? Swiss?!? Don’t kid yourself!! One of the most politically disgusting nations of the world!!

  • James Weiss says:

    Switzerland. Call me not surprised. They hid Nazi cash. They stole Jewish assets. This is “on brand” for them. As long as they make money they couldn’t care less who dies.

    • guest says:

      You people are obsessed with WW II. That was more than three quarters of a century ago. If you are determined to dig up dirt, you can do so for virtually any country because every country has plenty of skeletons in their not-so-pristine past. Let’s stick with the present, which is Netrebko’s binding employment contract, and leave the hidden Nazi cash be, we’re not playing treasure hunt. The Swiss may not want to buy her out of her contract, which is their good right. Not everybody reasons with their guts, some do so with their brains. If your sense of (in)justice is so strong, contact the Zurich Opera and tell them they can go ahead and fire her, you’re supplying the cash out of your pocket. I’m sure Gergiev won’t sue his cancellations, but Netrebko just might. Why not let her sing (ahem) and face the audience’s reaction? Could be a novel experience for her…

      • Golban Maria says:

        Poor Anna the mob would tear you in the arena !

      • omaria says:

        True, people could vote by not going to the concert. But I think right now we all need to send a very loud clear message to Putin and those supporting him. The message being: NO.

    • This reminded me of the famous remark of millionaire Jimmy Goldsmith who said : “In the matter of the conduct of the Swiss banks, towards the Jewish property they “acquired”, you must understand these were not acts of anti-semitism – they’d have done that to anybody”. I have yet to meet a Swiss citizen who does not agree with this !

    • Nick says:

      As I said: Switzerland is one of the most politically disgusting countries in the WORLD!!

  • Harpist says:

    Her statement was pathetic. And offensive even. Donors writing already to the Met that hey will stop donating if she continues to sing. While I enjoyed her voice for the most part I can easily live without a Putin apologist singing in the Met.

  • Kathleen E King says:

    Shame on Zurich! “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” so this is spurious.

  • Uncle Sam says:

    And speaking of that Tsarev guy: here’s the fresh article on the website of the popular Russian pro-Putin newspaper (which – the newspaper – calls itself “the Putin’s favorite one”). The title? “Who will head the Provisional Government of Ukraine?” (After the “special operation” of Russian forces of “liberating” that country is over, of course!). Guess what? The candidate #1 is Anna’s best friend! Hope her schedule at the moment will allow her to sing at his “inauguration”. The only question is what anthem it would be that she’d be performing – a Ukrainian one? or a Russian one? And having in mind the current level of “love” between the ordinary Ukrainians and the Russian puppets that Putin pushes down Ukraine’s throat, if it comes to that occasion it would be wise on the Netrebko’s part (and on Tsarev’s, too!) to wear a bulletproof vest on that day. Just in case…


  • Tom Phillips says:

    She has also just claimed that she is “not a political person” despite her very long record of explicitly endorsing Putin, the use of blackface, attacking sexual assault victims, anti-covid restrictions etc. etc.

    • Nick says:

      Nothing wrong with anti-covid restrictions, or “so called” sexual assault as well as blackface. All this is recent demagoguery. Endorsing Putin is in a different league.
      But remember, Putin is a Klaus Schwab’s scholar, as well as Trudeau, Macron, Merkel, Clinton, Obama and many others. So look at the cause. The fish stinks from the head!!! Pay attention. Schwab designated Russia to be the avant-garde of his so called fascist “reset” of the world. Putin, Clinton and Trudeau are his good students.

  • Dave T says:

    Herr Homoki: Break your contract with Netrebko and fire her, then dare her to sue you. But, no, you won’t do that, you don’t have the balls. You’re just another Swiss coward. (Sorry, I mean “Swiss neutral”)

  • horbus rohebian says:

    Anna Netrebko now clarifies in this fashion…..” forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right. This should be a free choice. Like many of my colleagues, I am not a political person. I am not an expert in politics. I am an artist and my purpose is to unite people across political divides..”

    To that I say bollocks. Poor girl – an ‘innocent abroad’, not a political person (though cosying up to Putin) and seeks to unite through her art. Art does not, never has united. It’s a sop for troubled minds in troubled times and, in this case a cop-out for making a stance against a tyrant (nothing to do with homeland). She’s not prepared to do that and I’ve no time for her.

  • Peter says:

    If we go down the drain where musician’s views on politics could get them fired…

    … what is the end game her? Can a singer be fired for a production for being pro legalization of mariuana? Getting fired for being in favor of stricter gun control?

    You might think you are doing something good, but in the end it will be crap, as always when The Good People (TM) are playing in the sandbox

    • guest says:

      But do we go down this route? I haven’t yet seen any evidence for this. For starters, Netrebko isn’t a musician. Too much off pitch singing, and no sense whatever of what she sings, everything sounds the same. Is there an opera house who fired her? Not that I know of. No one had asked of her “to denounce her homeland” and other such demagogic rot. What Netrebko is doing is preventive damage control, for reasons unrelated to fear of being fired by opera houses, in my opinion. There is bigger fish to fry.

      If you mean Gergiev, he is a musician, but he is also much more, he is the general manager of Mariinsky, the country’s flagship arts institution, controlled by the state. A plum position awarded only to people very involved with politics and faithful to the regime. His recent cancellations are part of the cultural sanctions applied to Russia, sanctions Russia knew were coming. Not a vendetta against a private person, and let’s not get carried away into marijuana and gun control territory, this sounds like Netrebko’s demagogic drivel.

      If you mean the pianist Matsuev, you may have a point, though we don’t know for sure. The Carnegie Hall announcement said he was replaced, not fired. For all we know he may have decided it was preferable not to face the American public just 24 hours after the invasion.

    • John Humphreys says:

      She says, disingenuously that she is really quite naive politically. Sure….

    • Al O says:

      A military invasion of a sovereign country, and a record of supporting the leader who ordered the invasion and the violent separatists sponsored and funded by the invading country, is a bit more than just a mere matter of “politics”. To compare situation this with issues like marijuana legalization is an insult to the victims of this violent assault and complete violation of international norms of behavior, and serves to minimize just what and who Ms. Nebtrenko is on record as supporting.

  • Thomas M. says:

    She’s been a Kremlin puppet for many years and never actively supported the opposition against Putin. One statement isn’t gonna change that.

    • Jonathan Sutherland says:

      I agree with Thomas M.
      No one would ever describe Donna Anna as a brilliant intellect. Many would argue she is actually an uneducated peasant who just happens to be blessed with a superb voice – which she is progressively ruining by extremely unwise repertoire choices.
      Her ‘povera piccola me’` lament that she is being asked to ‘denounce her homeland’ is as fatuous as it is disingenuous.
      The issue here is not blanket censure of everything Russian.
      It is the entirely correct condemnation of a murderous tyrant who shows no respect for international law or even common decency.
      If Netrebko is not smart enough to acknowledge the difference, she is even more of an idiotka than her worst detractors would claim.
      Let the booing begin.

  • Olha Mykhanchuk says:

    Anna Netrebko- a two faced woman who needs to be banned from the world’s stages. She is a supporter of Russian violence and murderous political strategies. The facts talk for themselves. It is too late for Netrebko to change and who she is? She a woman who has not got any dignity and conscience. I would like to see her child in such terrible conditions as Ukrainian kids are at the moment. She will pay the price one day. God sees everything. Fear him not Putin

  • AB says:

    If you all think Anna is bad, don’t look in the direction of Aida Garifullina!!!

  • Giustizia says:

    Let’s not be hypocrites and draw the line here. I demand Canadian artists denounce Trudeau’s arrant anti-human rights moves turning the country into a police state overnight. And he really did wear blackface which the left seems to have no problem with while attacking Netrebko for wearing character-appropriate theatrical makeup.

  • Ballerina says:

    Anna didn’t do anything wrong in Donbass – she donated her salary to the Opera Theatre in Donetsk , which was in a terrible state . She supported her colleagues. Do not spread lies.

    • Al says:

      Watch the photo, lady! She holds the flag of the separatists and the guy isn’t a colleague singer, for God’s sake!

  • Jane says:

    As we watch Ukraine bow to Russian aggression, let’s retaliate against an opera singer. Easier and safer than sending troops.

  • Paula Ste. Marie says:

    First a human being then an artist otherwise what good is the art?

    Switzerland neutrality how is that possible without turning off all feelings?

  • Ballerina says:

    That’s not fair. The truth is that Anna donated her salary to the Opera Theatre in Donetsk to support her fellow musicians to survive difficult times. Do not spread lies.

  • JMK says:

    She must go. Putin will permit her to serenade him.

  • John says:

    Love her voice. But no excuse. Her statement is not acceptable. Russian murder in Europe. She must pay like other apologists for Putin. Gergiev.

  • Popcorn says:

    Poor apolitical Netrebko! What a hypocrite. This so called “opera diva” got too much attention. She needs to get back to earth. The “diva” got to her head. All these dead Ukrainians are political? The women, the children, the old people, killed by Netrebko’s hero Putin, are truly apolitical.

  • Jeanne says:

    Her carefully crafted statement about peace should be analyzed in conjunction to her since disappeared IG story thusly covered by NPR: In a pugnacious Instagram story that has since vanished, Netrekbo added: “It’s especially despicable from people from the West, seated comfortably in their home, not fearing for their lives, to pretend to be be brave and pretending to ‘fight’ by putting in trouble artists who asked for nothing. This is just hypocrisy of them. These people who think that being on the ‘right side’ allows them everything and excuses their unfair behaviour are just human s***s. They are as evil as blind agressors. No matter which side they are from. ❤”

    From this I think it is abundantly clear that her pro-peace statement is nothing else than a shallow attempt to save her western appearances without condemning Putin or even distancing herself from her past opinions.

  • John says:

    She gave 1 million rubbles (18,000 dollars )to help repair an opera house in Crimea at the request of friends in Ukraine. She had to give it through this leader and she was photographed with him. Also, the other photo always posted with Putin is when she was celebrated as the Peoples Artist of the Russian Federation. (imagine great Americans receiving the Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump) All funding of the arts in Russia, including the celebrated Marinsky and the Bolshoi , goes through the Russian government, i.e. Putin. As for the LGBTQ community’s protests at the MET. Imagine protests of Renee Flemming, a US citizen, by black groups in France because of the horrible racism in the US, persistent now for 250 years.