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American Soprano Angel Blue Withdraws from Racist Opera Festival in Italy
By: Bella Liu
Angel Blue, an American soprano, withdrew from “La Traviata” after she found out that the Italian opera festival she was to perform in included a production that used “blackface” makeup. The singer made her decision after fellow soprano Anna Netrebko posted a photo in which Netrebko was wearing dark makeup to play a role in the opera “Aida.” Blue said that she refused to participate in an event that supported the use of blackface, which is seen as offensive and racist. Blue stated: “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. It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist.”
Netrebko, however, supports the use of blackface and believes that it is an important part of theatrical tradition. Important figures such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, and television talk-show host Jimmy Fallon have been criticized for wearing blackface, so the use of blackface makeup in Netrebko’s role will probably damage her reputation. Netrebko’s reputation is already injured because of her past support for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, although the soprano has claimed that she no longer supports him after the invasion of Ukraine.
The performance of “Aida” is a remake of a 2002 production by Franco Zeffirelli. Back in the early 2000s, blackface makeup wasn’t as controversial as it is today. The spokesperson for Arena di Verona, where the opera festival was taking place, said that it is hard to veer from the original historical production. Festival organizers stated that they had no intent to stir up any problems and that they wished to talk with Blue about her decision. Blue’s choice to stand up against the use of blackface by quitting the festival is widely supported among opera artists and audiences, especially in the United States.
The quotation from Angel Blue comes from here: