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American soprano Angel Blue withdraws from Italian festival that starred performers in blackface
By: Andrew Zheng
On Thursday, the American soprano Angel Blue announced that she had canceled her planned debut at Verdi's "La Traviata" at the Arena Di Verona. She withdrew after learning about the production of "Aida" at the Summer Festival, which featured performers having blackface. The singer's decision came after Anna Netrebko, a Russian soprano, shared photos of herself wearing dark makeup to play the title role of an Ethiopian princess on Instagram.
Blue, who is black, posted that she could not affiliate herself with an institution that supported blackface, which America has almost wholly discontinued and regards as racist and dehumanizing. "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 wrote. "It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist. Full stop."
The controversy comes at an unlucky moment for Netrebko, who is trying to regain her reputation after standing by Vladimir Putin, which caused criticism after the invasion of Ukraine. Netrebko canceled many performances in Europe and the US in March, including several at the Metropolitan Opera, after refusing to renounce her support for Putin.
Responding to Blue's cancellation, Arena di Verona defended the decision. She questioned why Blue had not decided to withdraw her performance commitment earlier because "Aida" had premiered on June 18. The statement by Arena di Verona also said that the company had wanted to discuss the issue with Blue, noting, "We have no reason nor intent whatsoever to offend and disturb anyone's sensibility. Blue, however, is still listed on the performances on the venue's website.
Blue's withdrawal from the performance comes amid increasing acknowledgment since she is known as an "operatic sensation." She was the first black woman to play Violetta in a completely staged performance. This summer, she made herself known at the Paris Opera in Charles Gounod's "Faust."