Piotr Beczala: I broke with Netrebko over Putin

Piotr Beczala: I broke with Netrebko over Putin


norman lebrecht

March 17, 2023

The tenor used to be best friends and Vienna neighbours with the Russian soprano.

But he hasn’t spoken to her since Russia invaded Ukraine.

From today’s NY Times:

The relationship between Beczala and Netrebko, once his friend and frequent collaborator, has become strained since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Netrebko was originally set to star alongside Beczala in the Met’s “Lohengrin.” But she withdrew from the production and, since the war began, has been canceled at the Met and faced other professional setbacks because of her association with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

Beczala, an early critic of the war who has canceled his Russian engagements, said he had not spoken with Netrebko since the invasion. He said that she did not do enough to oppose it and distance herself from Putin. “I like Anna really as an artist and a colleague,” he said, “but she made mistakes.”



  • Slava Ukraine says:

    I agree with what Becsala says about Netrebko, except I do NOT like her as an artist, and I’m pretty sure I would not like her as a colleague either.

  • A.L. says:

    Mistakes over poor lovely Putin is not all. She also blew up her vocetta into something wobbly and ugly akin to a Guleghina but without the latter’s dramatic acting instincts; however, both share some of the worst intonation problems this side of Rysanek.

  • JS says:

    Beczala has often sung in Russia and had concerts scheduled there in the spring of 2022. After the war broke out, he had to cut himself off from Russia – and from Netrebko too (to whom, to a large extent, he owed his position at the MET). He had to because otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to set foot in his home country, i.e. Poland, and in addition his position at the MET could have been threatened. Before the war Netrebko’s putinism – with which, after all, she made no secret – somehow didn’t bother him. They are all opportunists – their profession demands it, if they weren’t they would be singing somewhere in the provinces (talented as they are).

    • Tiredofitall says:

      Having known him personally and listened to his performances more times than I can count, Piotr Beczała is a decent man and a wonderful artist. His ascendency at the Met was not owed to Anna Netrebko. He has been singing leading roles there regularly since 2004. His longevity is a testament to his solid technique and discipline.

      You may have been thinking of Rolando Villazon.

      • JS says:

        No. I am not telling that Beczala isn’t a good singer, he is. What I meant is that after he replaced Villazon and was accepted by her as her favorite partner (because she decides with whom she wants to sing and with whom she doesn’t) his career took on another dimension. Especially in the MET. PS. i think he made his MET debut in 2006 and not 2004.

    • MacroV says:

      Putin has been awful for a long time, but invading Ukraine was another degree of awfulness. Should he have drawn a red line sooner? Probably. But better late than never.

    • Colleague says:

      If you think PB ‘owed’ his position at the Met to AN in any way at all, you need your head examining. He’s one of the finest lyric tenors of the past 25 years and his success is exclusively down to his own talent, hard work and dedication.

    • Maxud says:

      Beczala’s carreer was never dependent on Ne(po)trebko. It is not for you to judge his friendship with her before the war has started. People can have and have different opinions on politics. But the aftual war made things more clear. Brave to him for taking a stand.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      Beczala’s position at the Met is in no way due to Netrebko – they did not appear together there until 3 years or so after his debut – but his actual talent. In direct contrast, of course, to her completely untalented husband (most skilled in expressing bloodthirsty and genocidal anti-Armenian racism rather than singing). And even compared to the overhyped Rolando Villazon with whom she was so frequently paired until 2009.

    • ls says:

      By the time Netrebko had the clout to push for singers she wanted to sing with at the Met and elsewhere, Beczala had already been singing multiple leading roles at the Paris Opera, the Wiener Staatsoper, Salzburg Festival, and the Met.

    • Alex says:

      Monday morning quarterbacks always know best. I respect Beczala for opposing the war, shortly after Putin invaded and unambiguously. His stance is from his heartfelt conscience, part of what makes him such a great artist.

  • Doc Martin says:

    Putin has an ICC arrest warrant.

  • Potpourri says:

    If Piotr Beczala and the New York Times were honest, they would have added that Anna Netrebko condemned the war on three occasions and has been called a traitor by a member of the Russian parliament. Netrebko has not returned to Russia or performed there since the war began. Other opera forums have included these details.

    • Esme says:

      She condemned wars but not Putin. As we know ,russians widely support Putin.
      So she didn t really stood against this invasion. Is it her right to support Putin? Yes. But so do others have the right not to employ her for example.
      Called a traitor by one member of the russian parlament? This doesn t say much . Not an argument regarding her position vis a vis what Russia is doing right now

  • Bloom says:

    This story of broken friendship/partnership is very sad no matter from what angle one looks into it.

  • Marina de Bruyn says:

    I disagree.

    There are red lines which, once crossed, mandate that we all make moral choices, whether or not we are artists (and the extent of our duty is not anchored to our level as artists). Of course, we would all prefer not to have to be put in that position, but history throws up these decisive, and divisive, moments.

    Many artists had contracts in Russia in 2022, which they then cancelled because Putin crossed a non-negotiable red line. I know several. Piotr made the right decision, at the right time.

    Yes, there are opportunists out there. But let’s make sure to identify them.

    Gergiev was an opportunist, making fortunes out of his relationship with Putin and choosing to go back to Russia after the invasion, presumably because he believed preserving all he had built there represented the greater good in his highly consequentialist world view. Who knows what he really thinks of Putin? But at least he stuck to his guns, or Putin’s guns, you might say.

    Meanwhile, Gustavo Dudamel, who, in the image of Jose Antonio Abreu, makes an art for out of opportunism, is now at the NY Phil. His beloved dictator Maduro, with whose inner circle he is widely known to be close personal friends, crossed a non-negotiable red line in 2014 when he killed student protesters. He did it again in 2017. Like his friend Putin, he was sanctioned for these and other violations by the ICC, for crimes against humanity. Yet, it wasn’t until 2018, with the country destitute, that Dudamel wormed his way over to the other side. Sort of. His PR team subsequently laundered his story in an international press campaign of (fake) heroism and victimhood, including a documentary which, quite unbelievably, casts him as a martyr, and not the colaborator that he was for so long.

    So let’s call spades spades, please. Piotr Beczela is absolutely not a spade. Gergiev is a spade and acts like one. Dudamel is a veritable shovel, along with everyone who made and continues to make money off him (especially his manager, Mark Newbanks) but pretends to a silver spoon for the poor.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    Great to hear – I was wondering about that since they had been so closely associated. I’ve met both a few times and he clearly is a vastly superior human being, a genuinely good guy, in direct contrast to her utter shallowness.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    I cannot understand the fascination with Netrebko. She’s a mediocre performer, in my estimation.

  • Cantantelirico says:

    How convenient!!

  • Potpourri says:

    According to The NY Times and other sources Piotr Beczala and Anna Netrebko worked together and their families were good friends. But as soon as the war started he stopped talking to her. No contact at all while she condemned the war and her career spiraled downward. Seems cowardly for a”friend.” Maybe he will remember her now that the top opera houses are hiring her again.