Breaking: Berlin’s cultural senator will boycott Anna Netrebko

Breaking: Berlin’s cultural senator will boycott Anna Netrebko


norman lebrecht

September 14, 2023

Statement by Joe Chialo, Senator für Kultur und Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt Berlin:

Anna Netrebko is undoubtedly an outstanding soprano whose talent is admired on the opera stage. Her artistic abilities are undisputed and she has gained a loyal fan base around the world over the years. It is regrettable that it has not clearly and unambiguously distanced itself from the Russian regime in connection with the war of aggression against Ukraine. Artists today are no longer judged solely for their artistic achievements, but also for their moral integrity and their commitment to a better world. A clear distancing from the Russian regime and support for peace and human rights would have been a significant signal. And yet: Art is free, and our institutions have the right to make their own decisions in the design of their programs. I therefore decided not to attend any of the performances. Nevertheless, on Friday I will look at the photo exhibition “Russian War Crimes” at the Humboldt University together with the Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany, Mr. Oleksii Makeiev.

In the original German:
Anna Netrebko ist zweifellos eine herausragende Sopranistin, deren Talent auf der Opernbühne bewundert wird.
Ihre künstlerischen Fähigkeiten sind unbestritten, und sie hat über die Jahre hinweg eine treue Fangemeinde in aller Welt gewonnen.

Es ist bedauerlich, dass sie sich nicht klar und unmissverständlich vom russischen Regime im Zusammenhang mit dem Angriffskrieg auf die Ukraine distanziert hat. Künstlerinnen und Künstler werden heutzutage nicht mehr ausschließlich für ihre künstlerischen Leistungen, sondern auch für ihre moralische Integrität und ihr Engagement für eine bessere Welt beurteilt. Eine eindeutige Distanzierung zum russischen Regime und die Unterstützung von Frieden und Menschenrechten wären ein bedeutendes Signal gewesen.

Und dennoch: Die Kunst ist frei, und unsere Einrichtungen haben das Recht, in der Gestaltung ihrer Programme eigene Entscheidungen zu treffen.

Ich habe mich daher entschieden, keine der Aufführungen zu besuchen. Gleichwohl werde ich mir am Freitag gemeinsam mit dem Botschafter der Ukraine in Deutschland, SE Herrn Oleksii Makeiev, die Fotoausstellung „Russian War Crimes“ in der Humboldt-Universität ansehen.


  • L. says:

    Very well done! Finally someone has backbone.

    • Alviano says:

      Exactly, he’s probably never set foot in an opera house so what’s the difference. But he can count: there are more votes outside than inside.

    • RW2013 says:

      But seems to know his stuff –
      “Chialo has since compared the musical complexity of metal with classical music.”

    • guest says:

      Indeed he is not. If he were he wouldn’t call a wobbling, out of tune singer an ‘outstanding soprano.’ She has reached the stage (pun intended) where she isn’t fit to sing in the chorus.

  • Serge says:

    I’m so tired of politicians. They bring no joy, no help, only irritation.

  • Theodore Harvey says:

    “Artists today are no longer judged solely for their artistic achievements, but also for their moral integrity and their commitment to a better world.”

    I think this is a dangerous and sinister idea. Who gets to define “moral integrity” or decide which political views constitute sufficient “commitment to a better world”? I’m sure there are some people in the arts who would consider some of my political views to be contrary to their concept of “commitment to a better world.”

    • Marina says:

      It is kind of democracy, you can have your own opinion if you’re allowed to have one

    • wiener says:

      In der Nazizeit wurden die Künstler auch nach ihrer politischen Einstellung engagiert , will das der Herr wieder?

    • Yuri K says:

      This is a new rule in the “world based on rules”, implemented specifically for the Russian artists and intellectuals. It was OK for Richard Wagner to be antisemite, for Hitler’s admirer sculptor Hermann Kaspar to keep his position as professor at Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts, for Dmitro Dontsov who called Hitler “The Second Messiah” to become a full professor at the University of Montreal after the war, and it was OK for Glenn Miller to support the Vietnam War. But no, Russians get no excuses. Anna Netrebko will be remembered for long time but this guy who has his 5 min of fame only because of her will be forgotten in couple years. Jees, I already forgot his name.

  • Tom Phillips says:

    Brilliantly stated! But then “moral integrity and … commitment to a better world” has never been a “Russian thing”.

    • Božidar Šicel says:

      Who liberated the world if Nazis!? Russians gave well over 20 millions lives to contribute, by far, the most in victory against the greatest Evel in history of mankind.
      Only staunched ignorant can make statement about Russia and Russians like Tom Phillips.
      Where was boycotting of Americans when millions were killed in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Afganistan, Iraq etc!?!?!?

      • Tom Phillips says:

        Only after Hitler betrayed Stalin and their mutual allegiance/pact. Governed by self-interest only not concern about Nazism’s impact on anyone but Russians.

  • Being neutral says:

    Let’s wipe Furtwängler off history eh

    • WP says:

      You are clearly ignorant – it was conclusively determined after the War that Furtwängler saved the lives of scores of people, both Jewish and non Jewish. Did he cause harm to anyone?
      Perhaps you can give me a list of those people? Don’t think you will find any!
      Was he perfect – he would be the first to admit that in hindsight he would have done some things differently.
      Let’s agree that we can all be glad we’re not faced with making the sorts of decisions he had to..

  • Cardinall says:

    scared the hedgehog with a naked ass

  • MMcGrath says:

    Ah, Berlin. City of a million spoken words (hourly) and daily chaos. Surely he has something more important to do than this posturing? And how much is he costing taxpayers?

    • guest says:

      Surely you don’t expect a ‘cultural senator’ to find a solution for the chaos in Berlin? (I assume you mean traffic chaos.)
      Speaking of taxpayer money, are we allowed to wonder how much is AN, whose singing has degraded so much that she isn’t fit to sing in the chorus but demands high fees for herself and her husband, costing the German taxpayer?

  • Potpourri says:

    Is this story a satire? Germany, honored for its high culture (music, literature, art, philophy), has a “Culture Minister” who wants to promote heavy metal and “the club scene.” But he won’t recognize one of the most greatest opera singers of the Twenty First Century. Anna Netrebko has condemned the attack on Ukraine, but Russians cannot condemn the president, Putin, without severe consequences..The director of the Berlin Opera knows this and supports her appearance.The Culture Minister is a political appointee and places politics above culture.

    • guest says:

      ‘Is this story a satire?’

      I could ask as this as well about your comment. If a wobbling opera singer who ‘sings’ more out of tune than in tune is one of the ‘most(sic) greatest opera singers of the Twenty First Century’ to you, all I can say is either Poor Twenty First Century, or Poor You, or both.

      Evgeny Kissin has condemned Putin publicly and nothing happened to him. AN won’t condemn Putin because she actually agrees with his politics.

      • Tamino says:

        There is a vast and complex middleground between openly directly condemning Putin, and agreeing with his politics.
        Childish dualistic polarizations are one of the major mental disorders our civic societies and discurs suffer from.

        • guest says:

          Geez Tamino thanks for calling me mentally disordered. Good to know you consider yourself sane despite the fact you are living in the very same polluted society as the rest of us. Or are you living in the only country exempt of mental disorders, Russia, the country of fresh air and freedom of ‘discurs'(sic)? Separating the chaff from the wheat in your weasel-y sermon -which leaves nothing of substance- , the fact remains that Evgeny Kissin has publicly condemned Putin. Period. Netrebko has not. Period. To have your agent publish a carefully curated statement on your behalf, condemning war in the abstract, is not at all the same as yourself condemning in your own words the political regime that had declared war to another state. Please pass the wisdom to your friend Potpourri, who could do with a little enlightenment as well. If your memory is short, the internet memory is long. It isn’t difficult to find Netrebko’s original statements she published at the beginning of the war, quoted in various publications. Those are very enlightening though not in the way you and Potpourri hope.

        • guest says:

          But tell me, Tamino, how come you are commenting only on posts related to the war in Ukraine? I did a superficial scan and I found you on such posts but not on posts dedicated to classical music news. On another post a user was pointing out you have a Russian keyboard. Even if cell phones have Russian keyboards (your hurried justification), the fact remains that you know to spell in Russian, something that most people living in the West don’t, nor would they go to the trouble of looking for the Russian keyboard on their cell phones. So tell us, why are you commenting on this site only on political posts? Don’t you have a job? Or is this your job to comment here in English and tell people they are disordered ‘cos they’re living in mentally disordered societies? Russia excepted. Tamino the hero excepted as well, that goes without saying.

          Google tells me ‘discurs’ is Romanian. You know what? I believe you are an ex-Eastern Block country citizen, possibly someone who has studied in Soviet Russia at the time ‘cultural exchanges’ within the Eastern Block were all the rage, and now you have been reactivated for the present ’cause’, or you have reactivated yourself of your own free will because of your political allegiances. You may protest as much as you want that the ‘discurs’ is a typo, while it might be common to forget one letter, it is unusual to forget two, and if you post from your cell phone as you claim to do, an English keyboard would have caught the misspelling. So long, Eastern Bloc Alberich. I wonder at the owner of this site. Either he has an odd taste in house pets or he needs the likes of you, Russian bots doing here the up/downvotes included, to drum up internet traffic. I vote for the last.

  • Alan says:

    How he doesn’t choke on the fog of his own self satisfaction is a mystery.

    This is becoming very close to persecution simply because of nationality. Denounce, denounce, denounce until the person obeys all orders.

    A dangerous road for Germany to go down you’d think.

  • Potpourri says:

    Is this story a satire? Germany, honored for its high culture (music, literature, art, philosophy) has a Culture Minister who prefers to promote heavy metal and “the club scene.” But he won’t recognize the greatest opera singer of Century 21. Anna Netrebko has condemned the war in Ukraine. But Russians who denounce Putin face severe consequences. The director of the Berlin Opera knows this and will not cancel Netrebko’s performances. All four are sold-out or nearly SO. The Culture Minister is a political appointee who places politics above culture.

  • Bert says:

    If she doesn’t improve the diminishing quality of her performances, he won’t be missing much. Lately, her voice hasn’t nearly matched the hype!

  • Gustavo says:

    It’s has indeed become a sad world in which it is politically correct to consume war-porn rather than to enjoy an opera.

  • Alex says:

    What a sad, limited man

  • Frank Wroblewski says:

    Political opinion is not political fact and shows historical ignorance. National Ukrainians are fascists who massacred Jews, Poles, fellow Ukrainians as a matter of policy long before “fascist” was coined. When the Nazis crashed into Russia the Nationalists had already butchered most of the Jews and helped the Nazis hunt down those in hiding. They donned the SS uniforms against partisans and Red Army. They terrorized Ukraine well into late 50s.
    They joined the invading Western armies in 1917 on , and fought alongside the Germans occupying the Ukrainie, in dismembering Russia to colonize it for it’s vast resources. The West’s colonizing policy bequeathed the present proxy war using Ukrainian dupes.

  • Absurdistan says:

    Did this “senator” (from the Incitatus category of consuls, it seems) protest every single injustice committed in the world? Including the crimes of his bosom buddy Mugabe?

  • Camille Luce Hill says:

    Cultural politician blocking culture? This man is over estimating his importance.

  • Potpourri says:

    I attended Anna Netrebko’s Macbeth in Berlin, September 15, and La Traviata in Verona, September 9. Both were excellent. I was amazed how she was able to sing two operas that are so different.
    Her voice has changed but the quality has not diminished..During the Ukraine controversy, Netrebko has been attacked for political reasons but the quality of her voice has not been criticized..I don’t think Europeans are spending hundreds of Euros to hear a wobbly broken voice.

    • guest says:

      Your efforts on Netrebko’s behalf are endearing. Your childish tactics in replying to other people’s comments not in the thread where the reply belongs but further down in the comment section, are merely childish.

      Tell us one good reason why should we care about your ideas what constitutes excellence in operatic singing. Netrebko has been recorded live many times, including this year, and the recordings are online. Everyone with a musical ear can realize she’s out of tune on long stretches of ‘singing’ in ALL her live recordings of opera performances. Everyone can listen, everyone can use a software to determine pitch accuracy if needed, no one has to buy into your advertising. Ditto the wobble, ditto the unequalized registers, ditto the lumps in the lower voice, ditto the Russian accent when singing in Italian. Why should we care about your opinion? And before you think of replying with ‘why should we care about yours?’ remember that I did not ask people to buy into mine, I asked them to use software to determine pitch. Even children know how to use software, and every idiot can compare Netrebko’s live recordings with other singers’ live recordings.

    • guest says:

      How do you know Europeans are spending hundreds of Euros to hear her? People who want to hear a particular singer, and only that singer, go to recital concerts. The common denomination for these people is fans, and their opinion is notoriously unreliable. Fans are into celebrity cult, opera goers are into opera. Who are you, Potpourri? Are you a fan? Are you one of those nobodies semi-employed by obscure online publications who can be hired for a pittance to drum up internet traffic by writing promotional copy overflowing with superlatives but devoid of substance? One thing is sure, you aren’t a musician or a regular opera goer. Neither are you German or Italian. If you are following Netrebko around, today in Italy, next week in Berlin, you are either a well-heeled fan or someone else pays for your expenses in exchange for drumming up online sympathies for Netrebko. Opera performances have a cast. Where’s YOUR proof that people purchase tickets for opera performances because Netrebko is in the cast, or are you making this up as you go? People decide to attend opera performances for various reasons, from liking that particular opera, to the presence of other singers in the cast.

    • guest says:

      Netrebko has not been ‘attacked for political reasons.’ Stop playing the victimization card. If your fannish partiality has been amusing until now, it has ceased to be so with this statement. I am not amused by disinformation campaigns. Netrebko has not been attacked. This is a free world unlike her beloved Russia. She has been asked to give a statement, given her well-known allegiances to the Russian political regime. If your memory is short, the internet memory is long. It isn’t difficult to find Netrebko’s original statements she published at the beginning of the war, quoted in various publications. Those are very enlightening though not in the way you hope.

      Professionally Netrebko has become s a rotten singer kept afloat by the corrupt system, in the same way Domingo is kept afloat and allowed to masquerade as baritone in opera performances at 80. As a human being she is first an opportunist, and second a Putin supporter. She loves the political regime of her country, which she confuses with fatherland or motherland or whatever the literal translation of the Russian word for homeland is, but she loves her material comforts much more. She is one of those patriots who like to support their political cause without dirtying themselves with the daily experience of the masses who struggle for survival. Consequently she lives in Austria in luxury, which is (still) a free speech country, and who allows her to post her undying love for mother Russia and Putin’s person. Confronted with the prospect of unemployment in the West due to her injurious Instagram postings at the beginning of the war, the opportunist and money lover in her won over the regime lover, though not without a great deal of petulant kicking and screaming. And so she commissioned a statement from her new agent, who very obligingly produced a sleek one condemning war in the abstract without specifically condemning Putin’s regime. My personal opinion is that they should not have asked any statement of her. An opportunist will always be an opportunist. An opportunist will always suck up if there’s no other option. Her agent’s statement is worthless.

      You and the Russian bots on this site can downvote my comment into oblivion, it doesn’t make it less true.

      • Yuri K says:

        You are moved by your moral narcissism but you have the morality of a Hottentot. Keep talking, though, you are very helpful to Putin.

  • Joe Bitin says:

    Signs of an increasingly brainwashed and woke society. The West condemns Russia on Ukraine but looks the other way when asked on their views regarding Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and their countless number of wars. The corruptive effect of power on humans is universal – not unique to one nationality. As a Westerner myself, it’s amusing to see Westerners thinking they are morally superior and free of propaganda. Herd-like mentality and hipocresy at its best. We can’t change it. We can only prepare for what the stupidity of the mediocre herd will lead to. You would think Germany would know best but then humans are wired to trip over the same stone – expecting anything different would be the definition of insanity.

    Weak people bring politics into everything – unable to add value they resort to going with the latest trend.
    Keep politics out of music.

    • guest says:

      Joe, your tirade is tiresome, alliteration intended. Get real. Opera is state subsidized in Europe and Russia. It’s politics who have decided to keep the opera business afloat, it’s politics who have decided who gets the position of opera superintendent, and it’s the long arm of politics via the superintendents who decides who gets cast, and who gets to do new stagings. The long arm of politics has decided Netrebko should be showed down the throats of opera audiences in Italy, Austria, Hungary, Germany, despite the fact that her voice is in terrible shape and her musicality and pitch accuracy nearly nonexistent. If you don’t know what’s going on in these countries politics-wise, time for you to educate yourself. Kindly get off your high horse. Music doesn’t exists in a vacuum, it is performed by people, with other people deciding who and what, and as long as the state foots the bill, propaganda and politics are into the mix. If you want to keep politics out of music, the whole system is going to collapse like a card house, after which it will reemerge with prices around 200-400 bucks the ticket in larger European houses, 400-600 bucks/ticket in smaller houses. Someone has to pay the bills, Joe Bitin, there’s no free lunch.