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Lucerne Cancels Netrebko Concert, Berlin Invites Her to Sing

A concert in Switzerland featuring Russian opera singer Anna Netrebko, which was set to take place on June 1, has been canceled after requests from local authorities, representatives of the concert hall in the city of Lucerne have told the media. In a statement to the Luzerner Zeitung newspaper, the management of KKL (Kultur und Kongresszentrum Luzern) explained that “the public perception of the soloist remains controversial,” referring to accusations that Netrebko remains close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, having refused to renounce him over the Ukraine conflict.

The KKL venue also claimed that the concert’s proximity to the date and site of the upcoming Ukraine Peace Conference, scheduled for June 15 at the Burgenstock in the city of Nidwalde, would have caused “a threat to public order,” with one Lucerne politician claiming there would have been “at least a thousand” protesters at Netrebko’s performance. Lucerne city council member Armin Hartmann has also told the media that the mayor’s office had explicitly asked the KKL to cancel Netrebko’s performance, stating that the “we do not consider it appropriate for a Russian artist supposedly loyal to the regime to perform in Lucerne.” Mayor Beat Zusli has also claimed that “an artist who distanced themselves from the war but never renounced the Russian regime, should not appear in the city,” so as not to cause “reputational damage” to the region.

In response, Netrebko’s management has released a statement, condemning the unilateral cancellation of her performance “contrary to the contractual obligations” of the organizers, and noting that the Ukraine Peace conference would be taking place two weeks after the planned concert. The singer’s representatives stressed that “none of Anna Netrebko’s almost 100 performances since March 2022 have led to a disturbance of the public order.” The singer’s management has also pointed out that following the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in 2022, Netrebko has publicly spoken out against the fighting, and has called for peace in Ukraine. She has also not returned to Russia since then, as she has been living in Austria since 2006.

The Netrebko issue also led the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Thursday to denounce the decision of the Berlin State Opera to bring Netrebko back; the world-famous Russian soprano had been previously “canceled” for refusing to denounce her country. “The voice of Ukraine in Germany should be heard louder than the soprano Anna Netrebko,” the ministry said, in a Facebook post. The ministry also revealed that Kiev had made efforts to prevent the Russian singer from performing in Berlin, but its efforts were “not met with the proper response.”

Netrebko is scheduled to take part in Friday’s premiere of ‘Macbeth’. Ukraine intends to protest her appearance by sending Ambassador Aleksey Makeev to the anti-Russian exhibit set up next door to the opera house, accompanied by Berlin’s Senator for Culture Joseph Chialo, the ministry said. Makeev has also published an op-ed denouncing Netrebko in several German outlets.The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, as the Berlin opera is officially named, announced at the end of August that it intended to resume cooperation with Netrebko, noting that she has not performed in Russia recently.