Artistically it is beyond any doubt. The soprano Anna Netrebko has been celebrated frenetically on international stages for years. But since the start of the war in Ukraine, the Russian-born woman, who now also has an Austrian passport, has no longer been welcome everywhere. The 51-year-old has come under criticism for her alleged closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin. For the first time since the war began at the end of February 2022, the Staatsoper Unter den Linden has now booked Netrebko for four evenings in the role of the power-hungry Lady Macbeth. This causes heated discussions.

The state opera and the singer have a long history. The opera house put the collaboration on hold when the war began. “We value Anna Netrebko as an outstanding singer, and we have a long-standing artistic partnership,” it said in March 2022. “At the same time, given the brutal war, we see no possibility of continuing this collaboration.”

Intendant wants to go “differentiated”.

A good year and a half and personal conversations later, director Matthias Schulz, whose company has clearly positioned itself for Ukraine at several events, has gained a new picture of the situation. “It is important to approach this in a differentiated manner and to distinguish between before and after the outbreak of war,” it is now said. Since then, Netrebko has not accepted any engagements in Russia and there are still no plans to perform in Russia. “I think it is also a very important sign that Anna Netrebko is singing on a stage that is so clearly Ukrainian,” said Schulz in an interview.

The singer tried to clarify her position in an earlier statement. “I strongly condemn the war against Ukraine and my thoughts are with the victims of this war and their families,” it said. “I recognize and regret that some of my actions or statements in the past could have been misinterpreted.”

Appearances with Putin

Critics accuse her of appearing with Putin, whom she has “only met a handful of times in my entire life,” or photos that are interpreted as Russian propaganda.

After a break from the world stages, Netrebko is now performing internationally again. She is celebrated by her fans as well as criticized by her opponents. Almost 1,400 seats in the State Opera were sold out for “Macbeth” on Friday.

In her first guest appearance since the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, the 51-year-old was frenetically celebrated with minute-long ovations in the role of Lady Macbeth in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Macbeth”.

In the opera house, after the first arias of the artistically brilliant soprano, there was a showdown between the applause and persistent boos. Netrebko countered her critics’ protests twice with demonstratively crossed arms and a winning smile at the edge of the stage.

As the three-hour evening progressed, there was more and more thunderous applause for Netrebko, the other soloists, choir and orchestra under Bertrand de Billy. The setting was Harry Kupfer’s production from 2018, some of which have eerie parallels to war images from Ukraine in some of the stage designs.


In front of the opera house, opponents of the performance protested throughout the evening with loud shouts, posters and Ukrainian flags. According to police estimates, around 150 people demonstrated against the commitment in Berlin. They waved Ukrainian flags, showed posters and shouted “No Netrebko!”, “Shame Netrebko” or “Shame audience.” The police shielded the demonstrators from the opera audience with bars.

The Ukrainian ambassador Oleksii Makeiev and Berlin’s Senator for Culture Joe Chialo (CDU) had previously visited the photo exhibition “Russian War Crimes” at the Humboldt University directly opposite the State Opera. There, photos show the cruel consequences of attacks on civilians and infrastructure in Ukraine.