Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, shunned over Ukraine, to sing in Monte Carlo

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko will be singing the title role in the Puccini opera, Manon Lescaut. PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Russian superstar soprano Anna Netrebko, whose international career crumbled after the invasion of Ukraine because of her past support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been invited to sing in Monaco this month at the Opera de Monte-Carlo.

Netrebko, 50, was initially scheduled to sing the title role of Puccini's Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera in New York at the end of April, but the company, like many in the West, parted ways with her over concerns that she had failed to sufficiently distance herself from Mr Putin after he began the war in Ukraine.

Instead, Netrebko will now appear in Monaco, singing the title role in another Puccini opera, Manon Lescaut, in four performances at the Opera de Monte-Carlo, the company announced on Thursday.

They will be her first engagements since the invasion began in late February, but she has other appearances planned later this spring.

"I am overjoyed to be unexpectedly making my stage debut at the Monte Carlo Opera," Netrebko said in a statement.

"It is going to be made even more special by performing with my husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, in the same Puccini masterpiece that marked our first encounter at the Rome Opera in 2014."

Netrebko has faced a wave of cancellations at leading opera houses. She once endorsed Mr Putin's reelection and, in 2014, she was photographed holding a flag used by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine.

After initially denouncing the war but remaining silent on Mr Putin, Netrebko saw her engagements in the West evaporate.

She issued a new statement last month seeking to distance herself from Mr Putin, saying she had only met him a few times and stating that she was not "allied with any leader of Russia".

Her words prompted a backlash in Russia, with a theatre in Novosibirsk, Siberia, cancelling an appearance and a senior lawmaker denouncing her as a traitor.

Opera de Monte-Carlo on Thursday defended its decision to hire Netrebko, saying she had done enough to distance herself from the war.

"Anna Netrebko made a statement two weeks ago regarding the war and her relationship with Putin," Ms Christiane Ribeiro, a spokesman for the opera house, said in an email.

"She has taken a clear position against the war in Ukraine. As a consequence, she has been declared an 'enemy of the homeland' by the speaker of the Duma and a theatre in Novosibirsk cancelled her appearance."

Opera de Monte-Carlo described its decision as artistic, noting that Netrebko is to replace the Italian soprano Maria Agresta, who cancelled because of illness.

In her statement, Netrebko said, "I wish my friend and colleague Maria Agresta a full and speedy recovery."

"Our choice is an artistic one: We very much regret that Maria Agresta has had to cancel for health reasons but we are happy that Anna Netrebko has accepted to sing these four performances of Manon Lescaut," Ms Ribeiro said.

It is unclear if Netrebko will succeed in reviving her globe-trotting career. The Met and leading opera houses in Zurich and Munich have declined to hire her, despite her attempts to distance herself from Putin.

Mr Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, said this month that he would be willing to have a conversation if Netrebko showed that she has "truly and completely disassociated herself from Putin over the long term".

Netrebko has managed to hold onto some engagements, though.

In May, she will perform recitals at the Philharmonie de Paris and at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. In July and August, she is set to appear in Italy at the Arena di Verona Opera Festival, where she will appear in Verdi's Aida and Puccini's Turandot.

She is also scheduled to appear at the Mariinsky Theatre's annual White Nights Festival this summer, according to recent reports in state-owned news outlets in Russia.

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