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American Singer Quits Italian Music Festival Due To Blackface
By: Ella Wang
American opera singer Angel Blue announced on July 14th that she will not be performing at the production of Verdi’s “La traviata,” held at Arena di Verona. The Grammy-award winning singer decided to drop out because of posts she had seen in which Russian soprano, Anna Netrebko, utilizes blackface.
On Instagram, Netrebko shared pictures of her dark makeup that portrayed Ethiopian princess Aida, from Verdi’s opera of the same name. While her actions were highly criticized in the music world, Arena di Verona, the opera festival, recently put out a statement defending her makeup choice. They said that they wanted their performance to be historical and that the performance was “made when these sensitive topics were not such an issue”.
In response to this, Angel Blue posted a now-deleted message detailing her decision to withdraw from her Arena di Verona debut. The post read, “Dear Friends, Family, and Opera Lovers, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I will not be singing La Traviata at Arena di Verona this summer as planned.”
It continued, “As many of you know, Arena di Verona recently made the decision to utilize blackface makeup in a recent production of Aida.”
Blue went on to criticize this idea, saying, “Let me be perfectly clear: the use of blackface under any circumstances, artistic or otherwise, is a deeply misguided practice based on archaic theatrical traditions which have no place in modern society.”
She concluded, “It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist. I was so looking forward to making my house debut at Arena di Verona singing one of my favorite operas, but I cannot in good conscience associate myself with an institution which continues this practice.”
“Thank you for your understanding, and to all who have shown support and sensitivity to me and my fellow artists of color.”
The opera singer’s post was met with waves of positivity and understanding from her followers, with many praising her for “taking a stand”.
The Arena replied to Blue’s cancellation by saying, ““Fondazione Arena di Verona’s principal aim has always been to create peace through the spread and development of music and art. Culture creates bridges.”
They went on to tell Angel Blue directly that “we and the audience of the Arena di Verona look forward to meeting you: it will be the opportunity for dialoguing in a constructive and concrete way, beginning with your reflections.”
It seems that the Arena is unwilling to let Blue go. Even now, on Arena di Verona’s website, Angel Blue is still listed to play her lead role of Violet Valéry in the production on 22 and 30 July.