La Scala finds itself scrambling to find a conductor for the remaining performances of The Queen of Spades from 4 March after Valery Gergiev refused to denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and now Anna Netrebko has said that she will not be coming for performances of Adriana Lecouvreur from 9 March.
In Instagram stories and posts she said the reports in the Italian press that she was not well were not true and she wrote: “Healthy but NOT coming” and simply “NOT COMING”.
She said, “Forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right.”
La Scala cancelled the collaboration with Gergiev, a known supporter of Vladimir Putin, after the conductor had not distanced himself “unequivocally” from the invasion of Ukraine.
Netrebko however had already posted on 26 February on social media that she was against the war:
I have taken some time to reflect because I think the situation is too serious to comment on without really giving it thought.
First of all: I am opposed to this war. I am Russian and I love my country, but I have many friends in Ukraine and the pain and suffering right now breaks my heart. I want this war to end and for people to be able to live in peace. This is what I hope and pray for.
I want to add one thing, however: forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right. This should be a free choice. Like many of my colleagues, I am not a political person. I am not an expert in politics. I am an artist and my purpose is to unite people across political divides.
While it is true that in 2012 she expressed her appreciation for Putin's “strong masculine energy” and that two years later she donated a large sum of money to the Donetsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, run by a pro-Russian separatist leader at the time of the annexation of Crimea, she is also a great favourite with La Scala audiences. She has sung the last four operas to open the season.
For The Queen of Spades, Gergiev's assistant Timur Zangiev has been approached as he conducted all the rehearsals up until the dress rehearsal, but being that Zangiev works alongside Gergiev at the Mariinsky as well as conducting at the Bolshoi and Stanislavsky theatres, it seems an unlikely solution.
Milan's mayor, Beppe Sala, who requested Gergiev's declaration of his opposition to the conflict said,
I think we can rule out his presence at this point as the maestro has not responded. I certainly didn't ask for him to recant, but just to distance himself from this war, which is something a bit different.
In the meantime, the Filarmonica della Scala orchestra has announced that Riccardo Chailly will replace Gergiev in the concert scheduled for 7 March. The all-Russian programme features Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 3 and Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony, the Pathétique.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.