Vocalist Angel Blue is taking a stand against the use of blackface in opera. The soprano stirred controversy after announcing she was bowing out of an upcoming showing of “La Traviata.”
The tragic love story is currently running at Verona’s Arena in Verona, Italy. Blue’s portrayal of Violetta Valéry would have marked her debut (July 22) at the renowned Roman amphitheater. Her decision to withdraw from the performance comes on the heels of learning an “Aida” production held at the theatre had cast white Russian soprano singer Anna Netrebko as the lead in blackface.
In an Instagram post (July 14) Blue wrote,”I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I will not be singing La Traviata at Arena di Verona this summer as planned. As many of you know, Arena di Verona recently made the decision to utilize blackface makeup in a recent production of Aida.”
She continued by condemning the use of the racist theatrical makeup. “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,” Blue wrote. She added, “It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist. Full stop. I was so looking forward to making my house debut at Arena di Verona singing one of my favorite operas, but I cannot in good conscience associate myself with an institution which continues this practice.”
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In conclusion, she expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support and “sensitivity to me and my fellow artists of color.” In response to Blue’s decision, the theatre released a statement addressing the controversy.
“This production’s characteristics were well known when Angel Blue knowingly committed herself to sing at the Arena,” said the statement released to OperaWire. It continued, “Every country has different roots, and their cultural and social structures developed along different historical and cultural paths. Sensibilities and approaches on the same subject might widely vary in different parts of the world.” The theatre concluded by extending an invitation to discuss the issue with Blue.