Blackface Caused American Soprano to Withdraw from Italian Festival
Updated: Jul 26
By: Grace Zheng
On Tuesday, American soprano Angel Blue announced that she had canceled her planned premiere in Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the Arena di Verona after she had heard that an earlier production had included performers using blackface.
“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 U.S., where it is widely viewed as racist and dehumanizing,” according to an article in the Washington 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,” she wrote. “It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist.”
In recent years, several politicians and entertainers, including Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Jimmy Fallon have been criticized for wearing blackface in the past. The practice has had a long, complicated history in theater, but in most parts of the United States, it has been discontinued. However, in some parts of Europe and Russia, blackface has continued.
Russian soprano Anna Netrebko is an outspoken supporter of wearing blackface, and “has expressed beliefs that it helps maintain theatrical tradition,” an article in the Washington Post says. The recent images on Instagram of Netrebko wearing makeup that darkened her skin and having long black braids caused Angel Blue to reverse her decision about performing in “La Traviata”.
Many people from the opera world thanked Blue for her bold decision. Ryan Speedo Green, another opera singer and also “Black”, thanked Blue for “standing up for us”. He said, “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.”