Peter Gelb: There was no moral dilemma in sacking Netrebko

Peter Gelb: There was no moral dilemma in sacking Netrebko


norman lebrecht

April 03, 2022

The Met General Manager clarifies his position in an interview with the Guardian’s Nicholas Wroe:

‘Putin had invaded Ukraine and at that point I switched gears. There was no great moral dilemma or difficult decision to make. We had to immediately sever relations with Putin-backed organisations, which sadly included the Bolshoi. I greatly admire them artistically, but it is Putin who literally signs the contract of my counterpart there and so the decision was clear…

(Netrebko) ‘had put herself in that impossible position where she couldn’t repudiate (Putin). And even if I hadn’t made the decision on moral grounds, on a practical level there is no way she could possibly perform. Our audience wouldn’t allow it….

‘She took a public stance over a period of years. Most Russian artists, including other singers who perform at the Met, have not taken any public political position. Their private positions are theirs to keep private. I have no problem with that. We’re not asking them to fill out questionnaires, or for their loyalty to the Met or to the west. We’re doing none of that and nor do I think it’s appropriate.’

Read the full profile here.


  • No Gelb supporter but… says:

    Maybe we can (for once on this site) now applaud Gelb for doing absolutely the right thing with total clarity of purpose. His argument that ‘private can remain private, but what is public needs to be repudiated’ is faultless and will hopefully shut up all those who whine about ‘cancelling’ Russians.

    • James Weiss says:

      I agree with you completely. I’ve criticized Gelb often over the years but here he’s spot on. It’s a very clear, nuanced position. Also, he mentions the audience which many are ignoring. Many organizations – including the Met – are responding to what they’re hearing from their audience, donors, and Board. He’s right. They collectively would go ballistic if she appeared on stage. So this decision has many prongs.

      • Mikey says:

        I remember bygone times when the freedom of speech and artist’s political opinions (including communist party members, anarchists, harsh critics of the US, etc) were considered to be free expressions (a sacred value for many). Of course black and minority artists were welcome.
        But now something extraordinary happened to the knights of free speech, pluralism and inclusiveness. Now the artist’s national origin, or political opinion are a big no-no. Not only expression of opinions in support of their homeland, just not saying anything has become a reason for an immediate boycott (Sen Joseph McCarty would feel at home these days)….

        • Charles says:

          I totally agree. And it is frightening how many people, whom I thought knew better, have a total blind spot when it comes to this kind of McCarthyism. My only consolation is that this is temporary, a war fever. In ten years people will look back on this and realize this was wrong.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      I don’t believe for a second that ‘the private can remain private’. As long as any single person knows anything (no matter how scant) at all the cancellation button is always there, at the ready. The merest rumour is usually enough. C/f sexual abuse claims.

      • Herr Doktor says:

        Sue, you are yet again taking yourself away from your Jordan Peterson studies, and you should not do that! Please, stop spending time here because it is taking you away from Jordan Peterson.

    • Just saying says:

      Except, ya know, some innocent Russian artists have…I don’t know…actually been cancelled even though they don’t deserve to? Just making an innocent observation here.

  • john groves says:

    She probably wouldn’t have turned up anyway!

  • Alexander says:

    by chance I was stuck with “La Camisa Negra” today … you read my thoughts, Norman – Mr.Gelb in his ( eternal) black shirt would be a nice company to Juanes
    to sing about his broken heart 😉

  • little blue dot says:

    Oh yes, Peter Gelb, that great man of integrity, has fired Netrebko, just like he fired all musicians who wouldn’t denounce the USA for the illegal and unjustified invasion of Iraq that led to about 900,000 deaths in the region and the massive the destruction of the country, an invasion that intentionally left the country crippled and will cause profound human suffering for decades to come. Thank you Peter Gelb for your keen moral insight and profound view of the world that New York City, that great center of culture and plutocracy, so deeply engenders.

    • Jack says:

      Desert Storm took place in 1990. I believe Gelb was at CAMI Video in 1990.

      • little blue dot says:

        The Second Iraq War began March 20, 2003. It is the one that caused the massive death and destruction I mention and which had no justification since the claims of WMDs were not just mistaken, they were lies.

    • James says:

      Well done for totally missing the point of his statement. Show me the high profile MET musicians who publicly advocated for the Gulf War and worked hard to get GWB elected, and maybe I will concede you have a point. It is emphatically not about Gelb’s integrity or judgement, rather about Netrebko’s.

      • little blue dot says:

        It’s about blatantly double standards which which represent a lack of integrity. And a lack of credibility.

    • Harpist says:

      A ‘what about” doesn’t change or add anything in this situation. Doesn’t change a thing on Russia’s war crimes and genocide. So, what is your point?

  • M.Arnold says:

    Bravo, Peter Gelb. Well said and done.

  • M.Arnold says:

    Well said. Well done.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    They have used “each other” for years. Gelb would have turned his back on her eventually given that her powers are diminishing as they do for all us. So please, let’s not suddenly raise Gelb to HERO status. Gelb has no moral compass what so ever. Let us not forget that he did not have a “moral dilemma” when he fired 150 top level singers which were already engaged with signed contracts in his first year as general director alone. Gelb is merely aided by current events and circumstances to do half of the dirty work for him. For the sake of clarity; I am not a fan of hers!! But I am not about to praise a man who has little respect for the art form of opera and even less for singers. He has turned a once great opera house into an HD studio and has squanders millions on trash productions. Let us not be hypocritical! Those of you who now condemn her, once worshiped at her alter.

    • Robin Worth says:

      The word is altar and your comments illiterate.

    • Jack says:

      Why not just focus on what he said. He was right. Period.

    • Oxana says:

      Lets compare it to Kosovo. Albanian Rebels backed by Albania. Death toll far lower than 14 000 deaths in Donbass somehow justified Nato bombing of Yugoslavia that killed 600 (or 2000) people, 76 children. Kosovo is now unilaterally recognised. its leader now in Hague for crimes against humanity, drug trafficking and organ trafficking of 600 serb prisoners. Kosovo is ready to become Nato in a next round. I condemn Putin’s aggression, but he is only replying scenario used by the US in unlawfully bombing Yugoslavia. ( and countless other wars and ‘regime changes).Was anyone denouncing western artists?

  • IP says:

    And no musical dilemma at all.

  • Oxana says:

    This woman is from Donbass. Of course she would support her own people. 14 000 of them died in a war that has been going in since 2014. The flag she held is a flag of that region. She donted the money to the theatre in Donbass. What is wrong in what she did? Wrong is that noone ever took any interest in what was going on in Donbass. See for yourself in this film by French director

    • little blue dot says:

      Don’t under any circumstances take a differentiated view. Don’t consider the concerns and errors of both sides. Embrace a single-minded and all-consuming hatred or you will be a traitor. Such is war.

  • Curvy Honk Glove says:

    Now that we’ve taken care of the Russians, it’s time to purge our industry of all those who supported Putin’s collaborator:
    tRump. Anyone who voted for tRump should be fired without recompense for their support of that fascist authoritarian.

  • sandu PESTESI says:

    either music or moralist expert … cannot be both, at least not you at this moment …

  • Figaro says:

    First Gelb decides no performances in February, then you cannot attend without a booster shot; vaccinated not good enough and now punishes performers that have nothing to do with the invasion of Ukraine. The Met would be better off if Comrade Gelb resigned. Boycotting the Met until he goes and things go back to the way they were. Comrade Gelb things he is bigger than the Met itself! What a diva!!

    • Harpist says:

      idiotic comment. The majority of the MET’s audience (and donors) is in a risk population. Requesting to be vaccinated and masked is just the right thing to do and who doesn’t like it can go and watch it online and stay out. Seems the real Comrade here is you.

  • Harpist says:

    Gelb didn’t navigate the MET well during the last two years of lockdowns and his handling of the orchestra, no doubt – but I can not see any flaw in his handling of this horrible situation. On point, swift and clear. Hiring still Russian artist, playing Russian composers but dropping those that chose to be public in their political on the wrong side of history and humanity.

  • MPMcGrath says:

    Clear. Straight-shooting. Wonderful. The people in Vienna and Salzburg who are hosting that ghastly pairing of Currentzis and that Russian band (Putin-endorsed, funded by a Putin pal’s bank) should take notice how easy it can be to take a clear and correct stand.

  • Guess who says:

    We the artists of the world, should demand American artists, in order to perform abroad, to condemn Assange’s arrest and make a written statement denouncing his possible extradition. And to denounce American military actions in Yemen…and Syria, and…

    • Rita Rink says:

      Sarcasm is still amusing.

    • Surajit Mukherjee says:

      There is one rule for the United States and its lackey Great Britain and another for the others. Would US accept politely if Mexico decides to have a military alliance with China ? I very much doubt it . The great crime of Putin is to invade an European country with blue eyed and blond haired population and not some third world country like Iraq , Libya etc. Who cares what happens to those brown people, certainly not Gelb.

  • david wasersprung says:

    You have not the right
    to judge the artists preocupation for their fatherland as nobody judge the preocupation of american citizens in many many wars in the world that the us was involved to change governments.

  • David Barneby says:

    I think you are all ignorant of the facts about the war in Ukraine. The 2014 regime change orchestrated by the US CIA is the root cause of destabilization of Ukraine, civil war against Donbas, that has escalated to the present war with Russia. Americans are hypocrites. Russia is a country with ancient culture, exceptional in literature and many arts. Russians who stand by Putin are right, if small of stature, he stands head and shoulders above any other world national leader.

  • Anti-Bandera says:

    I would like to kindly remind all interlocutors that 85% of Russians totally accept Putin’s point of view.

    • Just saying says:

      Proof of that? So just because whatever made up percentage of Russians accept the view means all musicians do too?

    • David Dreebin says:

      I’d like to see some evidence of that high percentage. The few ‘ordinary’ Russians I know are against Putin’s regime and especially the invasion of Ukraine.

  • Ballerina says:

    I understand Peter Gelb’s position, but it’s a good joke about the president of the country who signs contracts for the theatre company.

  • Iphigenia in Aulide says:

    And who are YOU Peter Gelb, the new Inquisition, the new Judge of Judges?

  • david wasersprung says:

    The met opera is not your propierty.keep away your hands from decisions thay involve artists: who is “kosher” and who not.the only valid decision is if the artist is ,as artist, good for the met and public.
    You can rectificate your very unbilivieble decision.

  • Davis says:

    Honestly, Callas is so overrated.