Soprano Angel Blue says she will not perform in an opera in Italy this month because blackface was used this summer in the staging of another work on the same stage.
The American singer posted a note about her Instagram page say she will bow to La Traviata at the Verona Arena this month because the theater recently performed another opera by Giuseppe Verdi, Aidawho had artists in blackface.
She labeled such use of “archaic” theater practices as “offensive, demeaning and downright racist.”
However, Angel Blue was still listed on the Arenas on Saturday (July 16) website as singing the role of Violetta in La Traviata on July 22 and 30.
The theater said it hoped Blue, who is black, would accept an invitation to meet with Arena officials in a “dialogue” on the matter. The Arena said in a statement Friday that it had “no reason or intent to offend and interfere with anyone’s sensitivity”.
For decades, American civil rights organizations have publicly condemned blackface — in which white performers blacken their faces — as dehumanizing blacks by introducing and reinforcing racial stereotypes.
The Arena has performances by . this summer Aida based on a 2002 staging of the opera classic by the 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 this summer I will not be singing La Traviata at Arena di Verona as planned.”
Referring to Arena’s decision to use blackface makeup in Aida, the singer wrote: “Let me be perfectly clear: using 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’s insulting, humiliating and downright racist.”
She wrote that she “could not in good conscience associate herself with an institution that continues this practice.”
The theater’s statement said that “Angel Blue made a conscious commitment to sing in the Arena,” although the “features” of the 2002 Zeffirelli staging were “known.”
Still, the theater emphasized the hope that its protest would eventually improve understanding between cultures and educate the Italian public.
“Each country has different roots and their cultural and social structures have developed along different historical and cultural paths,” said the Arena of Verona Foundation statement. “Common beliefs are often only reached after years of dialogue and mutual understanding.”
The Arena statement emphasized dialogue, “in an effort to understand the point of view of others, regarding consciously accepted artistic obligations.”
“Contraposition, judgments, labeling, lack of dialogue only feed the culture of contrasts, which we reject completely,” the statement said, calling for cooperation “to avoid division.”