Berlin’s Governing Mayor Kai Wegner is, in his own words, “very critical” of the planned appearance of the Austrian-Russian singer Anna Netrebko at the Unter den Linden State Opera. The CDU politician referred to the “self-sacrificing fight for freedom” of the Ukrainian people against the Russian war of aggression.

“In this war, Ukraine is not only defending its freedom and democracy, but also ours. That’s why I regret that an internationally successful singer like Anna Netrebko has not yet clearly and unambiguously distanced herself from the Russian war of aggression and Putin,” said Wegner German press agency.

“I view this appearance in our city very critically”

“But the freedom of art and culture is a valuable asset in our country,” continued Wegner. “This also applies to all institutions in Berlin and their decisions about their artistic program.” This is very different from Russia, where freedom of expression, press and art have long been trampled on. “Nevertheless, I don’t want to make any secret of my personal opinion: I view this appearance in our city very critically.”

The 51-year-old Netrebko is cast in the role of Lady Macbeth in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Macbeth” at the Unter den Linden State Opera this Friday. Further performances are planned this month. There are protests against this, including from science and culture. A demonstration in front of the State Opera has been announced for Friday if Netrebko’s appearances are not canceled.

“All my solidarity and the solidarity of the entire city goes to Ukraine and its brave citizens,” said Wegner. “That’s why it is a great honor for me to be able to welcome the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, on Thursday and to conclude a twin city partnership with the Ukrainian capital Kiev.”

Senator for culture with boycott

Berlin’s Senator for Culture Joe Chialo wants to boycott Netrebko’s appearances. “I have decided not to attend any of the performances,” said the CDU politician. Chialo will look at the photo exhibition “Russian War Crimes” on Friday together with Ukrainian Ambassador Oleksii Makeiev.

“Anna Netrebko is undoubtedly an outstanding soprano whose talent is admired on the opera stage,” said Chialo. “It is regrettable that it has not clearly and unambiguously distanced itself from the Russian regime in connection with the war of aggression against Ukraine.” At the same time, Chialo said: “Art is free, and our institutions have the right to make their own decisions in the design of their programs.

From the State Opera’s perspective, it is important to differentiate between before and after the outbreak of war. Netrebko has taken a clear position both through her statement and through her actions since the beginning of the war in Ukraine and has distanced herself, and this needs to be recognized. “Without a clear positioning of the artist, further collaboration for the Staatsoper Unter den Linden was and would not be sustainable.”