Russian star sues New York opera for $360,000

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Star soprano Anna Netrebko is seeking damages from the Met Opera for lost rehearsal and performance fees

Russian singer Anna Netrebko is suing New York City’s Metropolitan Opera company and its general manager Peter Gelb, alleging breach of contract, defamation and other offenses. The case relates to the Met’s decision to drop her amid the ongoing conflict between Moscow and Kiev.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Manhattan on Friday, with the opera star seeking at least $360,000 in damages from the institution. The Met has allegedly caused the singer “severe mental anguish and emotional distress,” namely “depression, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, and emotional pain and suffering.”

“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,” the singer’s management said in a statement.

The opera house responded to the development in a short statement, stating that Netrebko’s lawsuit “has no merit.” Earlier this year, the Met was ordered by an arbitrator to pay over $200,000 to Netrebko for more than a dozen canceled performances. Netrebko was among the top-paid performers at the venue, receiving a fee of up to $17,000 per show.

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 Soprano Anna Netrebko perfoming at the Opera Gala in St Petersburg Conservatory's Opera House, December 12, 2010 Met Opera ordered to repay canceled Russian singer – NYT

The Met dropped Netrebko from engagements shortly after the conflict between Russia and Ukraine broke out in February 2022. Gelb demanded that the star singer explicitly condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Netrebko refused to do so.

The singer halted her collaboration with Russian state-linked institutions, including the iconic Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. The star also publicly expressed anti-war sentiments and argued against “forcing” public figures to take a political stance and condemn their homeland.

The ambiguous statements received a poor reception in Russia, with certain venues dropping the singer as well. For instance, the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater canceled her engagements, accusing Netrebko of making “statements condemning actions of our state.”

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