Famous American Soprano Says NO to Blackface Makeup
By: Chenyu Zhai
On Thursday, the American soprano Angel Blue declared that she would withdraw from the Italian summer festival after discovering an opera happening at the festival had blackface performers.
Blue is a singer whom international professionals increasingly acclaim. In 2019, she was the first black woman who played Violetta in a full performance of Verdi’s “La Traviata” at Italy’s Teatro alla Scala. Earlier this summer, she debuted at the Paris Opera in Charles Gounod’s “Faust.” She enjoys the fame of “operatic sensation”.
The Grammy-winner clearly saw Russian soprano Anna Netrebko’s Instagram photos of her having dark makeup as an Ethiopian princess. Blue cancelled her debut in “La Traviata” at the Arena di Verona.
“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. “It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist. Full stop.”
From the medieval period, someone has practiced black makeups. 2015 Metropolitan Opera “Otello” was the company’s first event that did not use dark skin makeups. But in Europe and Russia, blackfaces remain today.
In America, the public has widely considered blackface as racist and dehumanizing, and professionals have discontinued such behavior.
Recently, the public has criticized many celebrities for their past blackface appearances, such as Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Jimmy Fallon.
In responding to the announcement Blue made, Arena di Verona was supportive for the decision, but it also questioned why she did not make this earlier. The officials want to meet with Blue and discuss this further and they said, “We have no reason nor intent whatsoever to offend and disturb anyone’s sensibility.” On their website, Blue is still on the performance list for July 22 and 30 “La Traviata”.
Many opera professionals clapped for and endorsed Blue. Black opera actor Ryan Speedo Green thanks Blue “for standing up for us”. He wrote, “This practice needs to stop and all the artist/administrations who support it should be put on blast so their support of racist practice can be brought to light,”