US soprano pulls out of Italian opera amid blackface row

African American soprano pulls out of Italian opera because Verona amphitheater staged blackface performance: Singer blasts ‘archaic’ venue for hosting Aida with white Russian woman as Ethiopian princess

  • Soprano Angel Blue is bowing out of La Traviata at Verona Arena, in Italy 
  • She has pulled out because the theatre recently mounted another Giuseppe Verdi opera, Aida, that featured performers in blackface
  • Anna Netrebko, a white Russian soprano, has been cast in the titular role of Aida in Verdi’s opera – despite the character being an Ethiopian princess
  • Angel Blue blasted such use of ‘archaic’ theatrical practices as ‘offensive, humiliating, and outright racist’
  • The theatre said it was hoping that Blue, who is black, would accept an invitation to meet with Arena officials for ‘dialogue’ over the issue
  • But they said the singer ‘knowingly committed herself to sing at the arena’, even though the ‘characteristics’ of the Aida staging were ‘well known’

African American soprano Angel Blue has said she will not perform in an opera in Italy this month because another production held at the theater earlier this year featured performers in blackface.

The 38-year-old Grammy Award-winner announced she is bowing out of La Traviata at Verona Arena, in Verona, Italy, later this month.

She blasted the theater as ‘archaic’ for mounting another Giuseppe Verdi opera, Aida, that featured performers in blackface.

They include Anna Netrebko, a white Russian soprano, has been cast in the titular role of Aida in Verdi’s opera – despite the character being an Ethiopian princess. 

In promotional material, Netrebko appears with dark makeup over her face and body, and wearing a wig with long black braids.

Angel Blue called the practice ‘offensive, humiliating, and outright racist’.

African American soprano Angel Blue, a 38-year-old Grammy Award-winner, announced she is bowing out of La Traviata at Verona Arena, in Verona, Italy, later this month 

Anna Netrebko, a white Russian soprano, has been cast in the titular role of Aida in Verdi’s opera – despite the character being an Ethiopian princess

Verona Arena said it was hoping that Blue, who is black, would accept an invitation to meet with Arena officials for ‘dialogue’ over the issue

Angel Blue, however, was still listed on Saturday on the arena’s website as singing the role of Violetta in La Traviata on July 22 and 30.

The theatre said it was hoping that Blue, who is black, would accept an invitation to meet with Arena officials for ‘dialogue’ over the issue.

The arena said it had ‘no reason nor intent whatsoever to offend and disturb anyone’s sensibility’.

For decades, US civil rights organizations have publicly condemned blackface – in which white performers blacken their faces – as dehumanizing black people by introducing and reinforcing racial stereotypes.

This summer, the arena has mounted performances of Aida based on a 2002 staging of the opera classic by Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019. That staging uses blackface.


Russian soprano Anna Netrebko (left) and in blackface makeup (right) for Aida 

‘Dear Friends, Family, and Opera Lovers,’ began the soprano’s Instagram post. ‘I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I will not be singing La Traviata at Arena di Verona this summer as planned.’

Referring to the arena’s decision to use blackface makeup in Aida, the singer wrote: ‘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.’

She wrote that she could not ‘in good conscience associate myself with an institution which continues this practice’.

The theatre’s statement said ‘Angel Blue knowingly committed herself to sing at the arena’, even though the ‘characteristics’ of the 2002 Zeffirelli staging were ‘well known’.

‘Dear Friends, Family, and Opera Lovers,’ began the soprano’s Instagram post. ‘I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I will not be singing La Traviata at Arena di Verona this summer as planned’

However, the theatre stressed its hope that her protest would ultimately improve understanding between cultures as well as educate Italian audiences.

‘Every country has different roots, and their cultural and social structures developed along different historical and cultural paths,’ said the statement by the Arena of Verona Foundation.

‘Common convictions have often been reached only after years of dialogue and mutual understanding.’

The arena statement stressed dialogue, ‘in effort to understand others’ point of view, in respect of consciously assumed artistic obligations’.

Angel Blue, however, was still listed on Saturday on the arena’s website as singing the role of Violetta in La Traviata on July 22 and 30

Angel Joy Blue, is an American opera soprano who won the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for the Metropolitan Opera production of Porgy and Bess in the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards

‘Contraposition, judgments, labelling, lack of dialogue, only feed the culture of contrasts, which we totally reject,’ said the statement, appealing for cooperation ‘to avoid divisions’.

Angel Joy Blue, is an American opera soprano who won the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording for the Metropolitan Opera production of Porgy and Bess in the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards.

She has a Bachelor of Music from the University of Redlands and a Master of Music degree in Opera Performance from UCLA. She also studied voice and classical piano at Los Angeles County High School.

Angel Blue was also a beauty queen and the first African-American to hold the title of Miss Apple Valley, California. She also won the Miss Hollywood crown in 2005.

The use of blackface is still surprisingly common in opera, despite it being denounced in the US.

One of the first well-known blackface characters was Jim Crow, created by Thomas Dartmouth Rice in 1830 — but blackface and minstrel shows continued to grow in popularity and were still performed into the 1900s, including by stars like Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught in a blackface scandal after images of him in blackface at the 2001 Arabian Nights party – this time in color –  emerged last year, just in time for the Canadian Federal Election. 

Photos of the event first emerged in 2019 – prompting outrage and an apology from Trudeau.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught in a blackface scandal after images of him in blackface at the 2001 Arabian Nights party – this time in color – emerged last year 

Source: Read Full Article