Austrian opera star infuriates Ukraine

According to a report from the Associated Press, one of Austria's most famous opera singers Anna Netrebko has infuriated the Austrian government through her support of the separatist movement, as well as handing over 1 million rubles to Donetsk separatists in Ukraine.

Austrian opera star infuriates Ukraine
Anna Netrebko with Placido Domingo. Photo: APA (Gindl)

The report says that Netrebko, who has dual Russian-Austrian citizenship, donated a check for 1 million rubles (€14,860 or more than $18,000) to Oleg Tsaryov, the self-proclaimed leader of the 'South-east movement', based in the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic.

Tsaryov is on a list of persons sanctioned by the EU for their role in events in east Ukraine, and calls himself the chairman of the parliament of Novorossia.

Netrebko claimed on Monday that her donation was solely for cultural reasons, to support performing artists in the Russian-backed enclave.  She was also photographed draped in the flag of Novorossia while attending a joint press conference in St. Petersburg, a move which Austria's foreign ministry has described as 'problematic.'

“Donetsk has not surrendered, just like Leningrad did not surrender [during the Nazi siege],” Tsaryov said. “This [donation] is important for us not just because it’s money, but because it is support for us”, reported The Guardian newspaper on Monday.

Netrebko said she would visit Donetsk and sing at the opera theatre as soon as military hostilities in the region were over. Asked about her views on the conflict, she insisted she was apolitical. “This is politics and I have nothing to do with politics, I just want to support art,” she said.

“I have a lot of musician friends in Donetsk, we have been writing to each other a lot, and they told me the theatre was sacred for them, and the building had been partly damaged. I decided that I wanted to help as much as I can. I think it’s the right thing to do because art is art, and helps us get through all situations,” Netrebko said.

Dumped by Austrian airlines

The Austrian government warned on Tuesday that photos of the event "will be immediately used for propaganda purposes."

Austrian airlines, which for a long time used Netrebko in its advertising, has dumped the singer due to her views.  

"Anna Netrebko used to be an advertising partner of Austrian Airlines, the advertising contract with Ms Netrebko expired at the end of November," a spokesman told RFE/RL. "We clearly distance ourselves from any extreme political position and the use of armed violence."

According Netrebko's website, on December 9, 2014, Austrian Airlines was scheduled to launch a new advertising campaign, featuring Netrebko and Austrian Olympic gold medal-winning downhill skier Matthias Mayer. The campaign would have run in Austria, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. 

Boycott campaign launched

A new campaign has launched on Twitter to boycott the Russian singer, with thousands of people tweeting their anger over her collaboration with the people who were allegedly responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airlines plane in July.

The campaign uses the hash tag #BoycottAnnaNetrebko, and is actively trending on Twitter.


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Hitler’s justly forgotten opera attempt goes on display in Austria

Adolf Hitler's admiration for German composer Richard Wagner is well-documented, but that the Nazi dictator attempted to write an opera himself will come as a surprise to many.

Hitler's justly forgotten opera attempt goes on display in Austria
A page from 'Wieland the Smith' on display at the museum. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP
Nevertheless, a page of the work, entitled “Wieland der Schmied” (Wieland the Smith), goes on display to the public for the first time in a new exhibition on the “Young Hitler” opening in Austria this weekend.
A piano sketch of the first page, made by one of Hitler's few friends as a young man, August Kubizek, dates from 1908 when the future Nazi leader would have been around 20.   
Long speculated about, but never before seen in public, the manuscript was apparently written after Hitler had had only a few months of piano lessons, says Christian Rapp, one of the exhibition's curators.
And it clearly demonstrated the future dictator's “inflated sense of his own abilities”, Rapp told AFP.
The single sheet is believed to be the only surviving page of an ambitious project based on Germanic mythology that closely apes an unfinished work of the same name by Wagner himself.
The exhibition, entitled “Young Hitler: the Formative Years of a Dictator”, opens in Sankt Poelten in Lower Austria on Saturday and among the exhibits is a range of objects belonging to Hitler collected by Kubizek between 1907 and
Grandiose delusions
Kubizek initially kept them as mementos of his own youth before later realising they might be of historical importance.
They include letters and postcards written by Hitler to Kubizek, as well as paintings and architectural sketches by the young man — who was born on April 20, 1889 in the Austrian town of Braunau am Inn and whose artistic abilities
regularly fell short of his grandiose ambitions.
He sat the entrance examination for admission to Vienna's Academy of Fine Arts in both 1907 and 1908, but failed both times. Nevertheless, Hitler was always quick to find a scapegoat for his failures, said Rapp.
“Whenever something went wrong, it was always somebody else's fault, not his own,” the expert said.
Co-curator Hannes Leidinger said that even those who knew Hitler at a tender age in Austria testified to his “intransigent, aggressive” character.
For Rapp, the young Hitler “was already 'a bomb', if you like. World War I provided the fuse and then it was ignited in Germany — but you can make out the ingredients during his time here in Austria”.
In addition to tracing Hitler's personal history, the exhibition also seeks to explore the political and social context in Austria at the turn of the 20th century.
In particular, it tries to explain how many of the ideas that would gain such prominence in Nazi ideology — racism, anti-Semitism, militarism — had long since reached the mainstream of Austrian society, including among
sections of the left.
Austria has had a complex relationship with its Nazi past. For decades after World War II, successive Austrian governments insisted the country was a victim of the Nazi regime and sought to downplay the
complicity of many Austrians in the Nazis' crimes.
The curators said they hoped the exhibition would help shed light on Hitler's character, and also dispel the ideas that underpinned his genocidal ideology.
“Ways of thinking take so long to become widespread in a society, and they take as long to be dismantled… we will have work at that for decades,” Rapp said.