Angel Blue Withdraws from Italian Festival because of Blackface
By: Audrey Wang
Anna Netrebko, a Russian soprano, shared online photos of herself in dark makeup, causing Angle Blue, an American soprano, to announce that she will be withdrawing from the Italian music festival Arena di Verona. Blue confirmed her decision after viewing the post that Netrebko shared, depicting herself in dark makeup while playing the role of an Ethiopian Princess.
Blue, a Black woman, posted on Instagram that she could not associate herself with a culture that practices black makeup on non-black people, which is rare in the U.S. To most of the population in America, blackface is seen as racist and dehumanizing. It is because of the racial background of the tradition that Blue decided to drop out of the festival. Blue wrote in an Instagram post: “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. Full stop.”
The festival means everything to Netrebko, as she is trying to rebuild her reputation after her long support of Putin, which drew the public’s criticism. Netrebko canceled many performances and public appearances because of this, mostly in the U.S. and Europe. She is very outspoken about blackface and believes that it helps preserve theatrical tradition. In 2018, while filming “Aida”, she was forced to resort to tanning after the enterprise told her that she was not allowed to use black makeup.
The recent photos that Netrebko has posted have received more than 1,000 comments, many criticizing her or calling her out. A spokesperson earlier this month said the performance of “Aida” at the Arena di Verona was meant to calm the public’s nerves and allow them to accept blackface to be a cultural concept in society. The spokesperson also said that it was extremely hard to change historical productions. Other singers who will take part in the musical will also be wearing blackface.
But after Blue’s sudden withdrawal, the Arena di Verona defended the culture of blackface – and questioned why Blue had not left the musical earlier. The company officials still hoped that they could meet halfway about the issue and are looking to discuss with Blue. She is still on the list for performances in “La Traviata” on July 22 and 30, according to the website.
Cultural differences may set us apart, like using black makeup, but sometimes they make us come together too, like the festival Arena di Verona. Even though some places, like the U.S, refuse to accept black makeup into their society, in other places, like Italy, it is seen as a way to preserve historical theatrical culture.