Hard on the heels of Sebastian Catana's replacement (by Bryn Terfel and Lucio Gallo) in this summer's Tosca, the Royal Opera has now announced that Russian soprano Anna Netrebko has withdrawn from all her scheduled performances as Marguerite in April's revival of Faust, which was to have been her debut in the role.
In a statement issued by her spokesperson, Netrebko said: "I am so sorry to have to withdraw from the role of Marguerite in Faust. After much consideration and intensive preparation, I have come to the conclusion that the role is not right for me.
"I had been very much looking forward to debuting this role at the Royal Opera House and following it with further performances in Vienna and Baden-Baden. Unfortunately, I must now withdraw from all these productions. I am very sad to be disappointing my fans in these cities and hope they will understand the difficult decision that I have had to make. However, I am very much looking forward to returning to The Royal Opera to perform with the company again in 2015."
No replacement casting has yet been announced*, and with rehearsals about to begin there will be a powerful mood of urgency down the Covent Garden corridors as casting staff struggle yet again to plug the gap left by a disappearing diva.
The rest of the star-studded cast for these performances remains unchanged, with Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja in the title role, Bryn Terfel as Méphistophélès, Simon Keenlyside as Valentin, Diana Montague as Marthe Schwertlein and Jette Parker principal bass Jihoon Kim as Wagner. The Italian conductor Maurizio Benini is scheduled to conduct all performances.
*UPDATED 5 March: It has now been announced that the role of Marguerite will be shared between sopranos Sonya Yoncheva and Alexia Voulgaridou.
Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva will appear on 4, 7, 17 and 22 April, making her role debut with the Royal Opera. She will also perform the role for Vienna State Opera in May, again replacing Netrebko. Yoncheva sang Musetta in La bohème for the Royal Opera in the 2012/13 Season. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York as Gilda in Rigoletto in December 2013 and recently sang Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor with the Paris Opéra.
Greek soprano Alexia Voulgaridou will sing Marguerite on 11, 14 and 25 April. She has previously sung the role in Rome, Catania, Hamburg and Valencia. She made her debut with the Royal Opera as Mimì in La bohème in 2008. Her recent performances include Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly in Tokyo, Mimì in São Paulo, and Tosca in Trieste, Lausanne and for Opera Australia.