Netrebko (above) and Calleja decided to back out just days before the tour began – despite assurances from a radiation expert that they would be safe – leaving The Met to ‘scramble’ for replacements.
The earthquake in March killed around 25,000 people and led to radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plan.
In a statement from The Met, Netrebko’s decision was attributed to ‘the emotional weight of having also lived through the tragedy of Chernobyl.’
Speaking to the BBC, The Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb said: ‘Part of what makes opera such an exciting art form is that it is so unpredictable… If there were a rationality clause in opera singers’ contracts, not many opera singers would perform.’
Tenor Jonas Kaufmann has also pulled out of the tour over safety concerns. Marcelo Alvárez, Rolando Villazón and Alexey Dolgov, all tenors, will be stepping in to replace Kaufmann and Calleja. Soprano Barbara Frittoli will be replacing Netrebko in the role of Mimi in La bohème.
The Metropolitan Opera’s tour of Japan continues until 19 June and includes performances of La bohème, Don Carlo and Lucia di Lammermoor.