Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko suspends performances 'until further notice'

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko ahead of performance of Verdi's 'Macbeth' at the La Scala opera house Milan, Italy, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko ahead of performance of Verdi's 'Macbeth' at the La Scala opera house Milan, Italy, Monday, Nov. 29, 2021.   -  Copyright  Luca Bruno/AP
By Euronews  with AFP

Russian-Austrian soprano Anna Netrebko, who has come under criticism for her warm relations with Vladimir Putin, announced Tuesday that she was stepping down from the stage "until further notice."

"After careful consideration, I have made the extremely difficult decision to withdraw from concerts until further notice," she said in a statement.

"This is not the right time for me to be performing and making music. I hope my audience will understand this decision," she added, in a reference to the war in Ukraine.

Netrebko was originally scheduled to perform on Wednesday evening at Hamburg's Elbe Philharmonic but her concert has been postponed until September 2022.

The singer was then due to perform in March La Scala in Milan, and in Zurich after that.

The 50-year-old diva has appeared in the greatest operas, including Verdi's Rigoletto and La Traviata, Bellini's Capulets and Montagues, and Prokofiev's War and Peace.

In February 2014, she was chosen to sing the Olympic anthem at the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games in Russia.

Luca Bruno/AP
FILE - Russian soprano Anna Netrebko bows to the audience at the end of La Scala opera house's gala season opener, Puccini's opera "Tosca" Dec. 7, 2019.Luca Bruno/AP

Soprano faced pressure over pro-Putin stance

Like her compatriot and conductor Valery Gergiev, whose pro-Putin stance has led to a spate of concert cancellations over the past few days, Netrebko has been under increasing pressure in recent days.

The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, called on Twitter for German audiences to boycott her performance on Wednesday in Hamburg.

While she has not openly declared her support for the Russian president, she has been criticised for travelling to Donetsk in December 2015 to pose with the flag of pro-Russian separatist rebels.

She also sparked controversy when she handed over a cheque for one million roubles (around €15,000) to pro-Russian Ukrainian leader Oleg Tsarev.

The diva defended herself by explaining that she wanted to support the arts and in particular the Donetsk Opera, to which Ukraine has cut off all its funding.

On Sunday, Ms Netrebko had declared herself on Instagram to be "opposed to this war" with Ukraine, but without taking sides against her country's leaders or giving clear solidarity to the Ukrainians.

"It's not fair to force artists, or any other personality, to express their political opinions in public and denounce their homeland."

"I am not a political person. I am not a political expert. I am an artist and my aim is to unite people across the political divide" the singer wrote.