La Scala brings back soprano Anna Netrebko and plans to open new season with Russian opera

8 June 2022, 13:57 | Updated: 8 June 2022, 23:31

Anna Netrebko performs at La Scala in 2019 in a production of ‘Tosca’
Anna Netrebko performs at La Scala in 2019 in a production of ‘Tosca’. Picture: Getty

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Anna Netrebko has returned to open arms at the Milan opera house, as La Scala announces its new season will open with the Russian opera ‘Boris Godunov’.

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Anna Netrebko has made a surprisingly welcomed return to La Scala after facing months of cancellations from the world’s major opera houses.

The Russian operatic soprano returned on 27 May to La Scala just over three months since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, with a programme that included works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninov, and Tchaikovsky.

Ahead of the performance, Netrebko shared on Instagram, “‘Every time I can sing at Teatro alla Scala I feel like coming home. I’ve been to so many shows and had the honour of starring in so many premieres in this legendary theatre that holds a special place in my heart.

“After the disappointment of having to give up Adriana Lecouvreur performances earlier in the year, I’m particularly happy to be holding my first piano recital at Scala.”

Netrebko had been booked to sing in the Italian opera Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilea, and some Italian newspapers reported this was due to ill health. Netrebko refuted these claims on social media saying she was “healthy...but NOT coming”. She later added, “Forcing artists, or any public figure, to voice their political opinions in public and to denounce their homeland is not right.”

Read more: Russian soprano Anna Netrebko distances herself from Putin, but Met Opera ‘not prepared’ to change mind

The decision to allow Netrebko to perform, despite allegations of a close relationship with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is one La Scala has stood behind. While Netrebko has made multiple statements opposing the war, she has yet to publicly denounce Putin.

La Scala’s general manager, Dominique Meyer defended Netrebko after the Russian singer’s recent performance at the opera house saying, “I hope this evening is a sign for other houses to open their doors to Anna Netrebko. The opera audience today has shown what it wants.”

The Milan opera house has also announced that its new season will open with the Russian opera Boris Godunov on 7 December 2022. With music by 19th-century composer Modest Mussorgsky, the opera is based on the 1825 drama of the same name by Aleksandr Pushkin.

Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov will be starring in Boris Godunov, and Netrebko has been booked for Macbeth later in the season. Though the programming was made two or three years ago, in keeping with the rate at which opera houses plan their seasons, Meyer has come out in defence of the Mussorgsky opera saying, “I’m not for witch hunts,” at a press conference announcing the new season.

He continued, “I'm not in favour of the cancellation of Russian works, and when I read Pushkin, I don’t hide.”