American Soprano Cancels Debut After Learning About the use of Blackface
By: Sunnie Gao
American soprano Angel Blue announced on Thursday that she canceled her debut scheduled in Verdi’s “La Traviata” at the Arena di Verona in Italy after learning that an earlier production of “Aida” at the summer festival had featured performers in blackface.
Once Russian soprano Anna Netrebko shared photos of herself on Instagram wearing dark makeup to play the title role of an Ethiopian princess, she decided to cancel.
Blue, a Black woman, posted 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., as it has been viewed as racist and dehumanizing.
“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. Full stop,” Blue wrote.
In a statement responding to Blue’s cancellation, an Arena de Verona spokesperson defended their decision to use blackface, saying that it was “very hard to change historical productions”, and that other singers in the cast would also use blackface in the performance.
The Arena de Verona also questioned why Blue hadn’t announced her decision earlier and said that company officials would still like to meet with Blue to discuss her decision. Blue remains listed for performances of “La Traviata” on July 22 and 30 on the venue’s website.
Many people in Blue’s field supported her decision, taking to social media to express their agreement. Ryan Speedo Green, a fellow black opera singer, was one of those people. He wrote, “This practice needs to stop, and all the artists/administrations who support it should be put on blast so their support of racist practice can be brought to light.” He also thanked Blue for “standing up for them”.
In recent years, many people have been criticized for using blackface, such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Jimmy Fallon, and Jason Aldean. Many parts of the world have stopped using blackface, but in some parts of Europe and Russia, blackface is still commonly used. A 2019 Post opinion piece called it a “global problem.” There are a lot less people using blackface than before, but the problem is still not fully solved.