Soprano Anna Netrebko Sues The Metropolitan Opera
The Russian-Austrian singer has accused the Met and its general manager Peter Gelb of discrimination, defamation, and breach of contract
Soprano Anna Netrebko, 51, has sued the Metropolitan Opera for at least $360,000 over alleged discrimination, defamation, and contract breaches.
Despite publicly opposing the Russia-Ukraine war, Netrebko was barred from performing at the Met in March 2022, as she could not give a clear withdrawal of support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she had endorsed in the years before the invasion.
According to the Met’s general manager Peter Gelb, the company would “no longer engage with artists or institutions that support Putin or are supported by him — not until the invasion or killing has stopped, order has been restored and restitutions have been made.” More can be heard from Gelb in a video on the Met's Facebook page.
Prior to this, Netrebko was a popular artist at the Met following her debut there in 2002. She averaged 10 shows a year at the company in numerous title roles and attracted sold-out performances.
Filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Netrebko’s lawsuit seeks compensation for lost performance and rehearsal fees, claiming the Met caused her “severe mental anguish and emotional distress, including, but not limited to, including depression, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, and emotional pain and suffering.”
According to the Washington Post, the suit alleged that the Met and Gelb “harmed Netrebko’s reputation with audiences and opera fans, including by encouraging protests of her performances…[and] caused other opera houses and cultural institutions in the United States to refrain from hiring Netrebko.”
“Gelb indicated that if Netrebko issued [a statement denouncing Putin] the Met would continue its relationship with her,” the suit explained. “Netrebko responded that, as a Russian citizen, she could not make such a statement.”
“Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Met and Peter Gelb have used Anna Netrebko as a scapegoat in their campaign to distance themselves from Russia and to support Ukraine,” added Netrebko’s management.
Not long after her dismissal from the Met, Netrebko lost work in Russia, as well as in the West, after stating she was against the war and was “not a member of any political party nor…allied with any leader of Russia.”
The suit continued to state that “due to the Met’s requirement that Netrebko issue public statements opposing the actions of Russian government, Russian politicians have denounced Netrebko, Russian theater companies have canceled contracts with her, Russian audiences have criticized her on her social media channels and in the Russian press, and Netrebko and her family and friends in Russia have suffered the risk of harm, retaliation, and retribution by the Russian government.”
Additionally, the lawsuit cites a breach of agreements between Netrebko and the Met for dozens of performances through the 2025/26 season, cancellations of her 2023/24 contracts, plus claims that Netrebko was discriminated against because of national origin.
The Met’s press office stated last week that “Ms. Netrebko’s lawsuit has no merit” in an unsigned statement.
This court filing follows another complaint filed by the singer in February 2022 through the American Guild of Musical Artists (a union representing opera performers).
A labor arbitrator ordered the Met to pay Netrebko her $209,103.48 for 13 canceled performances but had left open “whether the Met’s termination of certain other contracts violated state law,” prompting the singer to file the current lawsuit.
Despite the “pay or play” contractual agreement — stipulating institutions to pay artists even if they do not engage in the set performance — the Met had argued that she was not entitled to payments due to a violation of conduct clause in her refusal to comply with requests to denounce Mr. Putin, according to The New York Times.
However, the arbitrator declined Netrebko’s request for an additional $400,000 for future engagements that were discussed but not formally agreed to. The soprano maintains that the company still owes her for these shows that garner Met’s current fee for top artists of around $15,000 a performance.
Currently working in Europe, Netrebko recently opened the 100th anniversary season of Italy's Arena di Verona and is scheduled to appear at the Teatro Colon. 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 Opéra.