On Friday evening, the Berlin State Opera premiered a new production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth, starring Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth. About 150 people rallied in front of the opera house to express their disagreement with the singer’s performance.
Protesters held Ukrainian flags and posters with the words “Russia is a terrorist State” and also chanted “No Netrebko!” Police fenced off the demonstration area with barriers to protect the opera audience.
This was Netrebko’s first performance in the German capital after the start of Russia’s full-scale war in Ukraine. Tickets to the 1,400-seat opera hall were sold out long before the premiere. Already after the first arias performed by Netrebko, cries of protest were heard from the audience. However, after the end of the performance, the audience gave a standing ovation for several minutes.
Before Anna Netrebko’s performance, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany, Alexei Makeev, expressed his protest in an open petition against Netrebko’s participation in the new production of the opera “Macbeth”.
“Netrebko, who previously supported Putin and helped him in his propaganda for the occupation of Donbass, bears personal responsibility in a Russian full-scale war,” Makeev wrote.
The ambassador also noted that in her statement, Netrebko only condemned the war, without mentioning who started it and who is leading it. Makeev emphasized that against the backdrop of a complete stop of any state, scientific, academic, regional and almost all public cooperation with Russia, the Berlin Opera continues “culture as usual.” According to him, the opera management is sending a “signal of ignorance.”
Before the start of the opera, Makeev, together with the head of the cultural department of the Berlin Senate, Joe Cialo, visited the Russian War Crimes photo exhibition, located in the Humboldt Brothers University building opposite the opera house. The Ukrainian Ambassador understood with understanding that politicians from the Berlin executive authorities cannot have a direct influence on the opera house. Makeev emphasized that he tried to explain to theater director Matthias Schulz why Netrebko’s performance was unacceptable, but did not receive a satisfactory answer.
Joe Cialo said he made no attempt to dissuade the opera director from producing the production. “I must respect the independence of theaters. This principle is highly valued in our democracy,” explained the head of the Senate Department of Culture.
Earlier, the Ukrainian NGO Vitsche sent a letter of protest to the opera house. The press service of the Radio Liberty theater confirmed the receipt of numerous letters both in support of Netrebko’s speech and against it. A statement regarding Netrebko’s performances in the opera “Macbeth” was published on the institution’s website. In it, the management of the opera house expresses solidarity with Ukraine and emphasizes that in a personal conversation they were able to verify the sincerity of Anna Netrebko’s condemnation of the war.
The theater has three more evenings of Macbeth scheduled with this production and this cast.