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Angel Blue Withdraws from Italian Opera Over Use of Blackface

By: Anna Luo

Last Thursday, American soprano singer Angel Blue announced her withdrawal from the Arena di Verona festival in Italy. This follows the festival’s earlier production of “Aida” that featured performers in blackface, a practice widely condemned in the entertainment industry.

The practice in question originated in the 1830’s, when performers in New York blackened their faces to mimic the slaves in Southern plantations. Using materials such as burnt cork or shoe polish, these actors portrayed African slaves as lazy and ignorant in shows that were often meant for family entertainment.

According to an Instagram post from the singer, Blue “was so looking forward to making my house debut at Arena di Verona singing one of my favorite operas,” but “cannot in good conscience associate myself with an institution which continues this practice.” Since then, the soprano has deleted all her social media accounts.

This follows a post from Russian soprano Anna Netrebko that includes photos of herself and other singers in dark makeup. According to The Washington Post article by Kelsey Ables, Netrebko “has expressed beliefs that [blackface] helps maintain theatrical tradition.” This is not the first time Netrebko has expressed her preference for using dark makeup; in a 2018 production of “Aida” for the Metropolitan Opera, the Russian soprano ended up going to a tanning salon after the company refused to use blackface.

In addition, Netrebko has also been receiving backlash for supporting Vladimir Putin’s war going on in Ukraine. According to The Washington Post, “In March, Netrebko canceled performances in Europe and the U.S., including several at the Metropolitan Opera after refusing to comply with the venue’s request that she renounce her support for Putin.”

Despite this, Blue remains listed for her performances of “La Traviata” on Arena di Verona’s website. In a statement, the Arena di Verona defended their decision and questioned why this announcement was not made earlier, as “Aida” premiered over a month ago.

However, on July 22nd, the Czech soprano Zuzana Marková posted on Instagram that she would be taking over for Angel.

Fans and other opera singers have applauded Blue’s decision online. Opera singer Ryan Speedo Green, who is also Black, thanked Blue, writing 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.”


- traviata/



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