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Angel Blue drops out of Italian festival that used blackface

By: Iris Shen

Last Thursday, Angel Blue, the American soprano, announced that she had canceled her debut in Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the Arena di Verona in Italy after learning that an earlier production at the summer festival had featured performers in blackface.

The Grammy-award winning singer’s decision came after Russian soprano Anna Netrebko shared photos of herself on Instagram wearing dark makeup to play the title role of an Ethiopian princess.

Blue, who is Black, posted on Instagram that she could not in “good conscience” associate herself with an institution that supports the practice, which has been largely discontinued in the US, where it is widely viewed as dehumanizing and racist.

“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.”

Several politicians and entertainers, like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Jimmy Fallon and Jason Aldean have come under fire for wearing blackface in recent years.

Many from the opera world took to social media to applaud Blue’s decision and send messages of support. Fellow opera singer Ryan Speedo Green, who is also black, thanked Blue in a comment “for standing up for us.” He wrote that “this practice needs to stop and all the artist/administrations who support it should be put on blast so their support of racist practice can be brought to light.”

In 2019, she was the first Black woman to play Violetta in a performance of Verdi’s “La Traviata” in Italy. Earlier this summer, she made her debut at the Paris Opera in Charles Gounod’s “Faust”.

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