Berlin State Opera Intendant Defends Anna Netrebko Following Protest Threats

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera)

Ahead of the Berlin State Opera’s opening of “Macbeth,” which has generated controversy due to the return of Anna Netrebko, Intendant Matthias Schultz is reiterating his support for the Russian-Austrian soprano.

In a recent interview with F.A.Z., Schultz said, “You really have to be careful not to use artists as scapegoats because you can’t get to the actual warmongers. I can well understand the frustration on the Ukrainian side that more artists and athletes in Russia are not standing up and trying to rouse civil society. I’m frustrated about this too. But the question is: Are we allowed to demand this based on our position? Is it okay to disinvite artists who have expressed themselves – and one can argue to what “

The director also noted that many of the opinions on the soprano have come “from people who have not dealt with Anna Netrebko’s personality at all” and added that people should look at “how someone behaved before and after the outbreak of war.” 

Schultz noted that he had a conversation with the Ukrainian ambassador regarding the presence of Netrebko and stated that “she put herself in danger” with the comments about the war. He added the Berlin State Opera will have the Ukrainian flag at the front of the opera house and that Netrebko’s presence is not an anti-Ukraine stance.

The interview comes on the heels of a letter signed by 100 figureheads from the worlds of culture, politics, and academia calling for Netrebko’s performances to be canceled. It also comes as the Culture senator Joe Chialo said he praised Netrebko’s artistic abilities but would not attend any performances and instead would attend the “Russian War Crimes” exhibition at the Humboldt University together with the Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany, Oleksii Makeiev. The performances also saw a petition receive 37,000 signatures against Netrebko.

The Berlin State Opera has already defended its stance regarding Netrebko in a previous statement that referred to the soprano’s March 30, 2022 statement and her recent lawsuit against the Metropolitan Opera and Peter Gelb where she repeated, that she was “not in line with Putin, did not support Putin, was not supported by Putin, or was not closely associated with Putin.”

The company also shared an article by SWR, which defends Netrebko’s performances and states “Ukraine’s fight for survival against Russia should not be supported in overloaded symbolic sideshows, but rather where it really matters, politically and militarily.”

A new petition in favor of Netrebko has also begun and has already garnered 1,500 signatures.  

The opening night performance of “Macbeth” is sold out and the last three performances are almost full.