American soprano, offended by blackface, withdraws from Italian opera


Soprano Angel Blue says she won’t perform at an opera in Italy this month because she wore blackface in a different staging this summer on the same stage.

The American singer posted a note on her angeljoyblue Instagram page saying she will pull out of “La Traviata” at the Verona Arena this month because the theater recently staged another Giuseppe Verdi opera, “Aida,” which had performers in painted faces. in black

She criticized such use of “archaic” theatrical practices as “offensive, humiliating and openly racist”.

Angel Blue, however, was still listed on the Arena website on Saturday to play the role of Violetta in “the mischiefon July 22 and 30.

The theater said it hoped Blue, who is black, would accept an invitation to meet with Arena officials for a “dialogue” on the issue. The Arena, in a statement Friday, said it had “no reason or intention to offend and upset anyone’s sensibilities.”

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 staged 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.

“Dear friends, family and opera lovers,” the soprano’s Instagram post began. “I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I will not sing La Traviata at the Arena di Verona this summer as planned.”

Referring to Arena’s decision to wear blackface makeup on “Aida,” the singer wrote, “Let me be perfectly clear: The wearing of blackface under any circumstances, artistic or otherwise, is a deeply misguided practice based on archaic theatrical traditions that have no place. in modern society. It is offensive, humiliating and openly racist.”

She wrote that she could not “in good conscience associate myself with an institution that continues this practice.”

The theater’s statement said that “Angel Blue knowingly undertook to sing at the Arena” even though the “characteristics” of Zeffirelli’s 2002 staging were “well known”.

Still, the theater emphasized its hope that its protest would ultimately improve cross-cultural understanding and educate Italian audiences.

“Each country has different roots, and its cultural and social structures developed along different historical and cultural paths,” says the statement from the Verona Arena Foundation. “Common convictions have often been reached only after years of dialogue and mutual understanding.”

Arena’s statement emphasized dialogue, “in an effort to understand the point of view of others, regarding artistic obligations consciously assumed.”

“The opposition, the trials, the labels, the lack of dialogue only feed the culture of contrasts, which we totally reject,” said the statement, which appealed for cooperation “to avoid divisions.”

It is not the first time that the use of blackface makeup for a staging of “Aida” in Verona provokes the protest of a soprano. In 2019, opera singer Tamara Wilson, who is white, protested against the darkening of her face to sing the title character of an Ethiopian woman in the opera at the Arena.

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