A Russian soprano has won a $200,000 pay-out from the Metropolitan Opera after it cancelled a string of her performances when she refused to denounce leader Vladimir Putin last year.
Anna Netrebko – who endorsed Putin for president in 2012 and called his Western critics ‘evil’ – was one of the Met’s biggest stars until she was suddenly cut from 13 shows following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
An arbitrator has now ruled she should be compensated for the cancelled performances, claiming there is ‘no doubt’ she is a Putin supporter but she had ‘every right’ to be.
Netrebko – who was also embroiled in a blackface scandal last year – argued she was entitled to the money under a ‘pay or play’ agreement which requires institutions to pay performers even if they later choose to cancel them.
But bosses argued she was not entitled to the money as she had violated the company’s conduct clause.
Anna Netrebko, who endorsed Putin for president in 2012 and called his Western critics ‘evil’, was one of the Opera’s biggest stars before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Netrebko distanced herself from Putin last year but failed to publicly condemn him. She is pictured with him in 2013
She denounced the war last February and distanced herself from the leader – but failed to publicly speak out against him.
In a ruling seen by the New York Times, arbitrator Howard C. Edelman said: ‘There is no doubt she was a Putin supporter, as she had a right to be.’
He added that this was ‘certainly not moral turpitude or worthy, in and of itself, of actionable misconduct.’
The ruling was made last month but only came to light this week.
Netrebko had originally sought $400,000 in fees for future performances she had discussed with the Opera but had not yet formally agreed to.
She was paid around $15,000 for each performance – the Met’s fee for top artists.
But Edelman said she was not entitled to those fees for those performances because no official contracts were in place.
She also was handed a $30,000 penalty for making ‘inappropriate’ statements about the invasion.
On social media she called Western critics of the conflict ‘as evil as blind aggressors.’
Last year she came under fire for a performance of Verdi’s ‘Aida’ in Italy in which she wore blackface make-up.
The row saw leading Soprano Angel Blue condemn it as ‘offensive, humiliating and outright racist.’
She also was handed a $30,000 penalty for making ‘inappropriate’ statements such as calling Western critics of Russia ‘evil’
Netrebko had originally sought $400,000 in fees for future performances she had discussed with the Opera but had not yet formally agreed to
Last year she came under fire for an ‘offensive’ performance of Verdi’s ‘Aida’ in Italy in which she wore blackface make-up
The Met’s general manager Peter Gelb told the New York Times: ‘Although our contracts are ‘pay or play,’ we didn’t think it was morally right to pay Netrebko anything considering her close association with Putin.
‘It’s an artistic loss for the Met not having her singing here. But there’s no way that either the Met or the majority of its audience would tolerate her presence.’
Separately the Met announced on Friday it was firing Netrebko’s husband.
Tenor Tusif Eyvazov was cut from a production of ‘Tosca’ set to open on March 30.
And Netrebko has also faced a series of cancellations worldwide. She was cut from a concert in Taiwan last minute this month due to her ties to Putin.
After news of her cancellations from the Met performances first broke, she told French newspaper Le Monde: ‘The Met was the first to insist that I clarify my position on I have done. But I was also asked to declare myself against Vladimir Putin.
‘I replied that I had a Russian passport, that he was still the president, and that I could not utter these words publicly. So I refused.’
She added: ‘We cannot denounce all of my future contracts just because they judge that I am too close to Putin.’
The Met’s general manager Peter Gelb told the New York Times he did not think it ‘morally right’ to pay Netrebko given her ties to Putin
When tensions between Russia and Ukraine started to escalate in March last year, many Russian celebrities and sports stars were pressured to publicly condemn the conflict – though many refused to comply.
Earlier this week Russian tennis player Anastasia Potapova received a formal warning for wearing a Spartak Moscow soccer Jersey ahead of her match against American star Jessica Pegula.
The Women’s Tennis Association told the player the shirt was ‘not acceptable nor appropriate.’