New York’s Met Opera ordered to pay Russia soprano Anna Netrebko for cancelled performances

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NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Opera has been ordered by an arbitrator to pay Russian soprano Anna Netrebko more than US$200,000 (S$268,000) for performances it cancelled last year after she declined to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine.

The arbitrator, in a decision issued last month that has not been previously reported, ruled that the Met should compensate her for 13 cancelled performances – including appearances in Don Carlo this season and La Forza del Destino and Andrea Chenier next season. A contractual agreement, known as “pay or play”, requires institutions to pay performers even if they later decide not to engage them.

The Met argued that Ms Netrebko, one of opera’s biggest stars, was not entitled to payment because of her refusal to comply with the company’s demand that she denounce Mr Putin, which it said had violated its conduct clause. Ms Netrebko endorsed him for president in 2012 and had spoken glowingly of him before the invasion in 2022.

The arbitrator, Mr Howard Edelman, found that “there is no doubt she was a Putin supporter, as she had a right to be”. But he added that aligning with Mr Putin was “certainly not moral turpitude or worthy, in and of itself, of actionable misconduct”.

Ms Netrebko had been seeking an additional US$400,000 in fees for engagements in coming seasons that had been discussed but not formally agreed to, including leading roles in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and Tosca, as well as Verdi’s Macbeth and Tchaikovsky’s The Queen Of Spades. She earned the Met’s current fee for top artistes of about US$15,000 a performance.

But the arbitrator found that she was not entitled to fees for those performances because the contracts had not been executed.

In addition, he imposed a penalty of nearly US$30,000 on Ms Netrebko for making “highly inappropriate” statements after the invasion, including sharing a text on social media that us...

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