A private arbitrator ruled that refusing to condemn Russia's leader does not amount to an actionable offense
New York City's Metropolitan Opera has been ordered to pay over $200,000 to Russian singer Anna Netrebko for more than a dozen canceled performances. The star soprano parted ways with the Met after refusing to comply with its demand to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin over the conflict in Ukraine.
An arbitrator hired to resolve a payment dispute between Netrebko and the opera found that the singer was entitled to $200,000, though declined an additional $400,000 in fees she had sought for upcoming performances, the New York Times reported on Friday.
Netrebko was among the Met's highest-paid performers, earning a fee of around $15,000 per show, but was forced to cut ties with the opera after it vowed to no longer hire performers who have supported Russia's president after its attack on Ukraine. Though the singer said she "expressly condemn[s] the war against Ukraine" just days after the conflict erupted last year, that was apparently not enough to satisfy the Met.
Arbitrator Howard C. Edelman concluded that "there is no doubt [Netrebko] was a Putin supporter, as she had a right to be," but added that this was "certainly not moral turpitude or worthy, in and of itself, of actionable misconduct."
However, Edelman nonetheless imposed a penalty of around $30,000 on the singer for what he said were "highly inappropriate" comments toward some of her detractors, who she labeled "human s**ts" in a social media post, fuming over her canceled performances and attacks on other Russian artists.
The Met did not comment on any particular aspects of the ruling, though the opera's general manager, Peter Gelb, later defended its decision to cease business with the Russian singer, saying "we didn't think it was morally right to pay Netrebko anything considering her close association with Putin."
The $200,000-payment ordered to Netrebko was based on a contractual agreement between the Met and its performers known as 'pay or play', which requires the opera to compensate artists even if their shows are ultimately called off.