Angel Blue Drops Out of Italian Festival After Blackface
By: Emma Wei
On Thursday, American Soprano Angel Blue announced she’s dropping out of Verdi’s “La
Traviata'' at the Arena di Verona in Italy. This show was supposed to be her big debut. Why did she cancel such an important event?
Earlier, Blue found out that an earlier production of “Aida” at a summer festival included performers doing blackface. Russian soprano Anna Netrebko even posted photos of her wearing dark makeup on Instagram.
Blackface has a long history in theater, ranging from Shakespeare to American minstrel shows. It is especially prevalent in Europe and Russia. A 2019 Post opinion article described it as a “global problem.”
As a Black woman herself, Blue posted on Instagram that she could not, in “good conscience,” be a part of an institution that supports blackface. Although it is more normalized in Italy compared to the United States, it is still racist and dehumanizing.
She continued saying, “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 added, “It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist. Full stop.”
Netrebko’s post sparked even more controversy. She has done blackface many times before and even wore black braids. In addition, she faced a lot of backlash due to her loyal support to Vladimir Putin after the invasion of Ukraine. Her loyalty was quite strong, as she refused the venue’s request to renounce her support for Putin.
A spokesperson for Arena di Verona stated that “La Traviata” is a remake of another show that was “made when these sensitive topics were not such an issue.” They also added that historical productions are “very hard to change.”
Despite the Arena di Verona’s statement, opera fans worldwide are in support of Blue. All over social media, fans applauded Blue for her decision. Many heartfelt messages flooded into her comment section. Blue’s action is a step forward in bringing awareness to blackface and prejudice in theater.