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Met Opera ordered to pay Anna Netrebko $200,000 for canceled performances

The Metropolitan Opera has been ordered by an arbitrator to pay Russian soprano Anna Netrebko more than $200,000 for performances it canceled last year after it refused to speak out against Russian President Vladimir V. Putin over the invasion of Ukraine.

The arbitrator, in a ruling last month that has not previously been reported, ruled the Met should compensate Netrebko for 13 canceled performances – including appearances in ‘Don Carlo’ this season and ‘La Forza del Destino and “Andrea Chénier” the next season — due to a contractual arrangement known as “pay or play,” which requires institutions to pay performers even if they later decide not to hire them.

The Met had argued that Netrebko, one of opera’s biggest stars, was not entitled to payment because of his refusal to comply with the company’s demand after the invasion of Ukraine that she denounce Putin, who she said had violated the company’s conduct clause. Netrebko backed Putin for president in 2012 and spoke enthusiastically about him before the invasion.

The arbitrator, Howard C. Edelman, concluded that “there is no doubt that she was a supporter of Putin, as she had a right to be”. But he added that siding with Putin was “certainly not moral turpitude or worthy, per se, of prosecutable misconduct”.

Netrebko had requested an additional $400,000 in fees for engagements in future seasons that had been discussed but not formally accepted, including starring roles in Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” and “Tosca,” as well as Verdi’s “Macbeth.” and Tchaikovsky’s “The Queen”. of spades. Netrebko earned the Met’s current honorarium for top performers of around $15,000 per performance.

But the arbitrator concluded that Netrebko was not entitled to a fee for those performances because the contracts had not been performed. Additionally, he fined Netrebko nearly $30,000 for making ‘highly inappropriate’ statements after the invasion, including sharing text on social media that used an expletive to refer to his Western critics. , whom she called “as diabolical as blind aggressors”. .”

In addition to endorsing Putin, Netrebko has occasionally lent his support to his policies. When in 2014 she donated to an opera house in Donetsk, a war-torn city in Ukraine controlled by Russian separatists, she was photographed holding a separatist flag.

The Met did not comment on the details of the decision but defended its decision to cancel Netrebko’s performance.

“Although our contracts are ‘pay or play’, we did not believe it was morally right to pay Netrebko anything given his close association with Putin,” Met Chief Executive Peter Gelb said. in an interview.

He added: “It’s an artistic loss for the Met not to have sung it here. But there’s no way the Met or the majority of its audience will tolerate its presence.

Netrebko representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sam Wheeler, national executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists, the union that represented Netrebko, welcomed the decision, saying it would help protect the rights of artists seeking compensation for canceled engagements.

“‘Pay-or-play’ is the foundation of our collective bargaining agreements across the country, and we will always uphold ‘pay-or-play’ provisions to the fullest extent possible,” he said in a statement. .

Netrebko, a major star and box office draw, still has a relatively busy performance schedule, although she continues to face protests and calls to be banned from the world stage. A concert scheduled for this month in Taiwan was canceled at the last minute due to concerns over his relationship with Putin. She is due to give a recital at La Scala in Milan on Sunday and will return there this summer for a production of “Macbeth”. His commitments next season include a concert at the Wiener Konzerthaus and appearances at the Salzburg Easter Festival in Austria.

Faced with a series of cancellations in the West last year, she sought to distance herself from Putin, issuing a statement saying she had only met the president a few times and was “not allied with no ruler of Russia”. She also canceled her appearances in Russia. But she avoided directly criticizing Putin or addressing her record of support for him.

Separately, the Met announced on Friday that it was firing Netrebko’s husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, from a production of “Tosca” that was slated to open March 30. Eyvazov, who had been hired to play the role of the painter Cavaradossi in six performances, will be replaced by Matthew Polenzani. Rehearsals for the production are due to begin on Monday.

Gelb said he had hoped Eyvazov would retire from production but decided to fire him mainly because of comments he made last year criticizing soprano Angel Blue, who had retired. of a production of “Aida” at the Arena di Verona after photos of Netrebko and other artists performing there in dark makeup circulated on social media.

Gelb also said that Eyvazov’s association with Netrebko was problematic and that he meant no disrespect to Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, who will sing the role of Tosca in four performances.

Representatives for Eyvazov did not immediately respond to a request for comment; the Met said it would be compensated for the canceled “Tosca” performances.

nytimes Gt

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