Soprano Anna Netrebko sued the Metropolitan Opera of New York.

The Russian singer accuses the institution of defamation and breach of contract. She claims that since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine they stopped taking into account and that generates her “mental and emotional anguish”.

Soprano Anna Netrebko

Soprano Anna Netrebko, once one of New York’s biggest box office draws at the Metropolitan Opera, sued the company and general manager Peter Gelb, alleging defamation, breach of contract and other violations related to the institution’s decision to cut ties with her following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The suit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, seeks at least $360,000 in damages for lost performances and rehearsal fees. Netrebko claims the Met caused “severe mental and emotional distress” including “depression, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, and emotional pain and suffering.”

The Met withdrew the Russian soprano from future engagements shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Gelb had demanded that Netrebko repudiate Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Met and Peter Gelb have used Anna Netrebko as a scapegoat in their campaign to distance themselves from Russia and support Ukraine,” representatives for the 51-year-old soprano said in a statement. There was no immediate response to Netrebko’s lawsuit from the Met or Gelb.

The American Musical Artists Union filed a grievance on Netrebko’s behalf, and arbitrator Howard C. Edelman ruled in February that the Met violated the union’s collective bargaining agreement when it canceled commitments to Netrebko to appear in Verdi’s “Don Carlo” and “La Forza del Destino” and Giordano’s “Andrea Chénier.” It awarded the soprano compensation for the lost performances, which the union estimated at more than $209,000.

Netrebko, who made her Met debut in 2002, was due the company’s maximum rate of $17,000 per performance, according to the lawsuit. Edelman noted that Netrebko voluntarily withdrew from performances of Wagner’s “Lohengrin” and Puccini’s “Turandot” and was owed nothing for them.

The lawsuit alleges breach of additional agreements for 40 performances of Puccini’s “Tosca” and Tchaikovsky’s “Lady of Spades” during the 2024-25 season and Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” and Verdi’s “Macbeth” in 2025-26. Going beyond the scope of the arbitration, the lawsuit claims that Netrebko was discriminated against because of her nationality.

Soprano Anna Netrebko

Soprano Anna Netrebko

Netrebko alleges that the Met and Gelb “damaged her relationship with the public and fomented protests against her performances” and “the reputation caused by Gelb and the Met has caused other opera houses and cultural institutions in the United States to refrain from hiring Netrebko.” It notes that the soprano was forced to sell her New York City apartment at a loss.

The lawsuit says that “because of the Met’s requirement that Netrebko issue public statements opposing the Russian government’s actions, Russian politicians have denounced Netrebko, Russian theater companies have canceled their contracts with her, the Russian public has criticized her on social media and in the Russian press, and Netrebko and her family and friends in Russia have suffered the risk of harm, retaliation and action by the Russian government.”

While absent from the United States, Netrebko opened the centennial season of Italy’s Arena di Verona in June with a new production of Verdi’s “Aida.”

She is scheduled to appear this month at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires and her 2023-24 season includes engagements with Berlin’s Staatsoper unter den Linden, the Vienna State Opera, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and the Paris Opera.

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