While a student at the Saint Petersburg conservatoire, Netrebko worked as a janitor at Saint Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre. Later, she auditioned for the Mariinsky Theatre, where conductor Valery Gergiev recognized her from her prior work in the theater. He subsequently became her vocal mentor. Under Gergiev's guidance, Netrebko made her operatic stage debut at the Mariinsky at age 22, as Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro. She went on to sing many prominent roles with the Kirov Opera, including Amina in La sonnambula, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor.
In 2002, Netrebko made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Natasha in the Met premiere of War and Peace. In the same year, she sang her first Donna Anna at the Salzburg Festival's production of Don Giovanni, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt. She also performed at the Russian Children's Welfare Society's major fund raiser, the Petroushka Ball . She returned to the Ball in 2003 and 2006 and is an honorary director of the charity.
In 2003, Netrebko performed as Violetta in Verdi's La traviata in Munich, the title role in Lucia di Lammermoor at the Los Angeles Opera, and Donna Anna at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Her second album, Sempre Libera, was released the following year. She later appeared as Violetta Valéry in La traviata at the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Carlo Rizzi and in 2008 she performed the same role at Covent Garden to triumphant acclaim on the opening night, opposite Jonas Kaufmann and Dmitri Hvorostovsky in performances conducted by Maurizio Benini. However, she cancelled three subsequent performances due to suffering a bronchial condition. This was the second time she had cancelled her performances at the Royal Opera House, having withdrawn from some performances of Don Giovanni the previous summer due to illness.
The Metropolitan Opera reports that Anna Netrebko has cancelled her Norina in this Saturdayo's matinee of Don Pasquale. Australian soprano Rachelle Durkin steps in. This cancellation comes on the heels of an Anna cancellation notice that we received yesterday, where the Russian soprano backed out of her 3"only U.S. recital," in Beaver Creek on Tuesday, February 22 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.