The Russian diva, scheduled to sing Mimi in the company's touring production of La bohéme has announced her 11th-hour withdrawal from the tour. The decision was announced last night in a New York Times article by Daniel J. Wakin. The article included the following statement from the Met press office: "Ms. Netrebko changed her mind having lived through the tragedy of Chernobyl." You can read the full article here.
The decision of Metropolitan Opera general manager Peter Gelb to carry on the Japan tour despite the danger of leaked radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima has been an unpopular one at the world's most famous opera company. The company arrived in Japan last night.
Ms. Netrebko is the fifth major artist to cancel on the Met's ill-starred tour of the Orient. So far, casualties include tenors Jonas Kaufman and Joseph Calleja, who both cited concerns about radiation leakage from the damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Olga Borodina cancelled, citing a need to rest her voice. Conductor James Levine, who is taking a five-month sabbatical for health reasons.
But the soprano, whose face adorns the Met's current marketing campaign and season ticket drive, is currently the biggest star at the Met. The diva is scheduled to open the season with a new production of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, a Metropolitan Opera premiere. In March, she will sing the title role in a new staging of Manon. Both performances will be included in the Met's schedule of Live in HD broadcasts for next year.
The Met's tour includes presentations of La bohéme, Lucia di Lammermoor and the company's new staging of Don Carlo. The cancellations have required some role shuffling. Barbara Frittoli, scheduled to sing Elisabeth in Don Carlo, will switch over to Bohéme. Russian soprano Marina Poplavskaya, who created the role of Elisabeth in this production, will step in to sing the role. She cancelled a Moscow concert appearance to join the Met in Japan.
The touring company includes 350 Met stage hands, extras, and musicians. The roster of and an impressive roster of singers: Mariusz Kwiecen, John Relyea, Rene Pape, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Diana Damrau. Tenors Marcelo Álvarez and Rolando Villazon, returning after a lengthy hiatus due to voice problems, will add firepower to the three productions. Met principal guest conductor Fabio Luisi will take James Levine's place on the podium. Gianandrea Noseda will also conduct.
The Met's two-week tour will conclude on June 14 with a concert in Tokyo. The program of that concert is listed as "TBA."