Culture Magazine

The Sacrifices Are on Hold

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
Anna Netrebko cancels Met and Covent Garden Norma premieres.
by Paul J. Pelkonen

The Sacrifices are on Hold

The new Met production of Norma will not look at all like this, 
and it will not feature Anna Netrebko. Photo of Anna Netrebko © EPA. 
Background image featuring actor Fernando Hernandez from the film
Apocalypto by Mel Gibson, © 2006 Icon Entertainment. Photo alteration by the author.

The Metropolitan Opera's new production of Norma, scheduled to open the 2017 season, is suddenly without its leading lady. Anna Netrebko, the Russian diva whose stage presence and creamy soprano guarantees box office at America's largest opera company, has confirmed that her plans to sing the title role in Bellini's opera are on an indefinite hold.
The Russian soprano announced today that she is also cancelling plans to sing the role at the Royal Opera of Covent Garden next season. This marks the second time that Ms. Netrebko has cancelled on Covent Garden this decade. In 2014, she nixed performances as Marguerite in Gounod's Faust. In both cases, the diva stated that she didn't believe the role was "right" for her voice.
In a statement, the soprano said: "As I have begun to prepare the role, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion my voice has evolved in a different direction. This is something I could not have anticipated when Maestro (Antonio) Pappano and I planned this project four years ago, as we singers have to make decisions about roles and projects several years in advance." The Met followed suit with its announcement earlier this morning. No replacements have been confirmed for either production.
Norma is one of the most difficult bel canto roles in the repertory, requiring pure, sweet tone  for the opening aria "Casta diva" followed by a decathalon of vocal gymnastics and emotional outbursts, culminating in a fiery double human sacrifice. The role and the opera were brought back to popularity in the 20th century, as Maria Callas and Dame Joan Sutherland spearheaded a bel canto revival.
There is no word on whether the Met will continue with its plans to open the 2017 season with a new production of Norma or substitute another opera in an effort to keep its leading lady on the stage for the premiere. There is some precedent at the Met for the latter as the company once nixed a run of La Forza del Destino so that star Luciano Pavarotti could stay in his comfort zone and sing Un Ballo in Maschera instead.
Under the leadership of Peter Gelb, the Met has opened each new season with a new production in September. Ms. Netrebko has sung in three of these: Anna Bolena, L'Elisir d'Amore and Eugene Onegin. In 2016-17, she is scheduled to sing Tatiana in Onegin and the title role in Puccini's Manon Lescaut. Both productions are revivals. 

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