The Met sings in unison with a wanted separatist



Article by: Julia Khodor Beloborodov

How many opera divas can boast among their vocal supporters both an internationally-sanctioned separatist leader wanted for treason in his country and a preeminent US cultural institution? Until slightly over two weeks ago Anna Netrebko was known for her exceptional voice and a little bit as a face of Austrian Airlines. Since appearing, on December 7, in St. Petersburg, Russia at a joint press conference with Oleg Tsarev, the so-called speaker of the so-called parliament of the so-called Novorossiya, Ms. Netrebko has also become known for her support of the Russia-backed and supplied separatists in Ukraine. Understandably, that support immediately generated an international wave of consternation towards Ms. Netrebko. In response, the separatists have sought to push back, including by staging a second press conference on December 23 in Moscow for Mr. Tsarev and several Russian cultural figures to voice their support for Ms. Netrebko.

At the December 7 press conference Ms. Netrebko, dressed in the colors of the so-called Novorossiya, transferred to Mr. Tsarev a sum of 1 million rubles and together with Mr. Tsarev posed for photographs holding the flag of that entity. The money, Ms. Neterbko said, was meant for the Donbas Opera in Donetsk which Ms. Netrebko claimed was severely damaged in the fighting. YouTube clips posted in response show a building that not only sustained no damage, but does not even seem to require a paint job. In fact, the building’s façade prominently displays huge banners advertising upcoming performances. This is entirely unsurprising since no fighting has taken place near the theater.

Does Ms. Netrebko believe that the public is incapable of ascertaining simple facts or does she want us to believe that she is the one who is incapable of it? This is not the only time since December 7 that Ms. Netrebko has counted on us to play dumb. Facing the immediate backlash for posing with a figure as odious as Mr. Tsarev, she attempted to claim that she did not know that a flag would make an appearance and that she had not planned to take pictures with the flag. Mr. Tsarev, however, has repeatedly stated that the planning for that press conference went on for two weeks and that everything including the presentation of the flag was planned out.

While Austrian Airlines immediately released a statement, canceled any further dealings with Ms. Netrebko and removed from their website all clips featuring her, the Met where Ms. Netrebko is scheduled to star starting on January 26, does not appear to be nearly as discriminating. Responding to the open letter from a volunteer organization Arts Against Aggression, Met Opera Customer Relations stated that they are proud that Ms. Netrebko sings at the Met. They also state that “[a]s an artistic institution that believes in freedom of expression, the Met does not have to be in agreement with the personal views of the artists who perform on its stage.”

I know that I am not alone in finding this answer sorely lacking and in having several follow up questions for the Met. Chief among these questions is whether any and all personal views of artists are OK by the Met, or whether there is in fact a line crossing which would get an artist disinvited from performing at the Met. To wit, would the Met still be proud to have an artist perform there if that artist materially supported the Taliban? While comparison to an organization proudly claiming responsibility for the murder of 132 students, 10 teachers and 3 soldiers in a recent school attack in Pakistan may seem harsh, consider that the forces of the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” (DNR and LNR) that make up the so-called Novorossiya are responsible for the July 17 shooting down of MH17 with 298 people on board, including 80 children.

Ms. Netrebko and her supporters would like us to believe that the money was needed by and went to cover the needs of the Donbas Opera. However, no credible report exists that shows the money actually being used for the needs of the theater. In fact, at the December 23 press conference Mr. Tsarev made two conflicting statements about the money within thirty minutes of each other—first, in his opening statement he claimed that half the money went to repair the decorations and the building that suffered in the fighting and half to pay salaries of the artists. During the question and answer section, however, he stated that 304 employees of the theater got three thousand ruble apiece with eighty more thousand going to repair of “light damages.” Curiously, he claimed that the remaining eight thousand ruble went to purchase medicines, since in wartime “the theater goes through those as through food.” Perhaps going through some medicines as if it is food would actually explain Mr. Tsarev’s contradictory statements. More importantly, at that same press conference Mr. Tsarev claimed that he remains in constant contact with Ms. Netrebko and that the latter has no doubt that she did the right thing.

So is Mr. Tsarev lying—would not be the first time for him by any means,– or is Ms. Netrebko standing by her support of the so-called Novorossiya, the flag of which is stained with the blood of the passengers and crew of MH17 and thousands of Ukrainian citizens, not to mention thousands of Russian soldiers and mercenaries that have laid down their lives this past year? And is the Met, singing oddly in tune with Mr. Tsarev, standing by their support of Ms. Netrebko?

Artists and their art can stand apart from politics. However, artists who use their artistic reputations to further a political cause cannot then be allowed to hide behind that reputation and claim to not be political actors. Ms. Netrebko and the Met owe a better answer to the patrons and to the many institutional supporters of the Met. We call upon the patrons and journalists to demand such an answer, and we hope to hear it soon.


Featured image: Ms.Netrebko at a press conference with Mr.Tsarev


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  1. Avatar Evelyn Myketa Livingston says:

    The Met has no scruples. Be ashamed!

  2. Avatar Michel Cloarec says:

    Why not ask mr President Obama what he thinks about it ?
    The White House

    1. Avatar Natalia says:

      No, don’t ask the president! It’s not the business of politicians to interfere with what the Met do.

      1. Avatar Michel Cloarec says:

        Si Signora Natalia ! To support terrorism is a political action !
        Ms Anna Netrebko knows exactly what she is doing, so what the Met doES can have a signification ! With all respect for art !

      2. Avatar Don Casavant says:

        I agree with you 100% I think our European friends need a lesson on just exactly what the term “free speak” means!

  3. Avatar Michel Cloarec says:

    Cancelled: The Red Army Choir and Special Guest Vincent Niclo live at o2 World Berlin

    Please note: Red Army Choir’s tour has been cancelled for organisational reasons. Purchased tickets can be returned at the respective box offices.

    The Red Army Choir is set to come to the O2 World Berlin for one concert on 16 December 2014 together with special guest Vincent Niclo.

    THEY SHOULD NOT WEAR THE st Georges ribbon on uniform ! mc

  4. Avatar Tom Clarke says:

    This is typical. In my country you open your mind until your brain falls out. Those that stand for art, ( be it supporting a opera singer that openly supports terrorist, or placing a crucfix in a jar of urine and calling it art ) are given a pass. It is so common it does not even raise attention anymore. In fact had they canceled her performance that would be a shocking scandle.

  5. Avatar J Edlund says:

    It’s shameful and arrogant by the Met. But they are far from the only famous cultural institution supporting terrorist spokespersons. The Sydney Opera House is another one.

  6. Avatar Mykola Banderachuk says:

    so let me get this straight, if hitler was an opera singer then the Met would allow him to perform as his political views would not be important to them. ok

  7. Avatar disqus_aJpixObjG7 says:

    you may send this letter to Metropolitan Opera- just copy and paste at their contact website here:

    For the attention of

    Ann Ziff –
    and Kevin W. Kennedy
    President and Chief Executive Officer Et al.

    Dear Directors of the Metropolitan Opera,

    Your dismissive, disdainful and ill-considered response
    regarding Anna Netrebko is indeed shocking and insulting- not just to the entire
    Ukrainian people but to all people. It is unworthy and disillusioning. The Met
    really must consider making a worthy statement (by a senior member) to repair
    this blemish on its dignity.

    Anna Netrebko is an artist who takes a PUBLIC position that
    supports the invasion of sovereign independent states, military aggression, neo-fascism, racism, ethnic and
    cultural cleansing, torture, murder of news correspondents and
    homosexuals as well as mass bloodshed against innocent civilians as is
    occurring in East Ukraine and Crimea. She should be led to know that she and
    her ilk cannot then hide from responsibility behind their art. Nor has any
    cultural institution such as the Met the right to hide them behind its skirts.

    The national institution of Austrian Airlines was not so
    “proudly” supportive of Ms. Netrebko as the Met. They hastened to
    do what is right, viz. to “distance themselves from extreme political positions
    and the use of armed violence,” assuring that the opera diva is no longer the
    face of their company. Netrebko’s political militancy and donation to terrorism
    has gathered wide criticism not only on the internet but also from the Austrian Foreign

    Please consider taking a similar stance against those who
    support what is anathema to all cultured, democratic and morally oriented
    people- a stance worthy of the Met that does not disdain and dismiss this
    important issue but that addresses it consequently such as have the Austrian Foreign Ministry and
    Austrian Airlines.

    With thanks,

    Your name

  8. Avatar Murf says:

    Want to bet if she was a fundamentalist christian, or anti gay rights her views would be important.
    The performer’s views do not matter as long as they don’t differ with the METS sacred cows..