Anna Netrebko, the Russian diva whose international career recently crumbled due to her past support of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, sought to distance herself from him on Wednesday, saying they had only met a few times.
Since the start of the war, Ms Netrebko’s performances at the Metropolitan Opera – where she sang for 20 years, becoming its reigning prima donna – have been canceled indefinitely. Other major opera houses, including in Munich and Zurich, have also canceled upcoming performances. On Wednesday, in what appeared to be an attempt to orchestrate a comeback, Ms Netrebko issued a statement distancing herself from Mr Putin in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“I am not a member of any political party and I am not allied with any leader of Russia,” Ms Netrebko said in the statement, which was posted on social media.
Ms Netrebko wrote: ‘I expressly condemn the war on Ukraine and my thoughts are with the victims of this war and their families’, but did not explicitly criticize Mr Putin and did not directly address his previous support from his view.
“I acknowledge and regret that my past actions or statements may have been misinterpreted,” said Ms Netrebko, who once backed Mr Putin’s re-election and has over the years offered her support to his leadership. In 2014, she was photographed holding a flag used by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.
“In fact, I have only met President Putin a handful of times in my entire life, including when receiving awards in recognition of my art or during the opening ceremony of the Olympics,” she wrote. “I have never otherwise received financial support from the Russian government, and I live and am a tax resident in Austria.”
The collapse of the career of Ms Netrebko, one of opera’s biggest stars, was one of the most visible consequences for the performing arts of Mr Putin’s decision to invade the Ukraine at the end of last month.
Ms Netrebko is one of a handful of Russian artists linked to Mr Putin who have seen their international engagements dry up since the invasion. Valery Gergiev, a Russian conductor and longtime friend and close supporter of Mr Putin, was sacked as conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra earlier this month and barred from many venues concerts and festivals outside of Russia.
In her statement, Ms Netrebko said she plans to resume shows in late May in Europe. In an Instagram post earlier this week showing photos of herself in the desert, she wrote, “Soon I’ll be back at work. It’s not really missing, to be honest.
The Metropolitan Opera, which has a policy of not hiring artists or institutions that express support for Mr. Putin, even though it continues to perform Russian repertoire and present Russian artists, said Ms. Netrebko’s new statement was not sufficient.
“We are not prepared to change our position,” Met chief executive Peter Gelb said in a statement. “If Anna demonstrates that she has truly and completely disassociated herself from Putin in the long term, I would be open to having a conversation.”
Representatives of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and the Zurich Opera did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Alexander Neef, the director of the Paris Opera, where Ms Netrebko is due to appear later this year in a production of Verdi’s ‘La Forza del Destino’, said in a statement that the opera was assessing the situation.
How the war in Ukraine affects the cultural world
At a press conference on Wednesday, before Ms Netrebko released her statement, Mr Neef said the opera would not feature artists who have shown “clear support for the actions of the current regime in Russia”.
At the start of the invasion, Ms Netrebko issued statements criticizing the war, but she also said she did not believe it was right to force artists to express political views and “denounce their homeland”. At one point, she shared a text that used a swear word in reference to her Western critics and said they were “as bad as blind abusers”. She remained silent on Mr. Putin.
In her statement on Wednesday, Ms. Netrebko reiterated her opposition to the war. She added, “I love my homeland, Russia, and I only seek peace and unity through my art.”
On Friday, Mr Putin lashed out at Western leaders for what he described as a campaign to nullify Russian culture and history, saying composers like Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff were being pulled from the curricula, even though the vast majority of orchestras and opera houses in the West continued to feature Russian works and artists. That night, the Met opened a revival of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” featuring Russian, Ukrainian, American, French-Armenian, Polish and Estonian performers.