ROME (AFP) – Sopranos Angel Blue said she will not perform at an opera in Italy this month because the black face was used in a different performance this summer on the same stage.
The American singer posted a note on her angeljoyblue Instagram page saying that she will be withdrawing from “La Traviata” in the Verona Arena this month because the theater recently staged another opera by Giuseppe Verdi, “Aida,” whose performers wore a black face.
She criticized such use of “old” theatrical practices as “offensive, degrading and outright racist”.
However, Angel Blue is still listed Saturday on the Arena website as singing the role of Violetta in “La Traviata” on July 22-30.
The theater said it hoped Blue, who is black, would accept an invitation to meet with Arena officials for a “dialogue” on the issue. Arena, in a statement on Friday, said it “has absolutely no reason and no intention to offend and annoy anyone.”
For decades, American civil rights organizations have publicly condemned blackface – where white performers heat their faces – as dehumanizing black people by introducing and reinforcing racial stereotypes.
This summer the arena held performances of the series “Aida” based on a stage performance of the 2002 classic opera by Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, who died in 2019. This show uses a blackface.
The Sopranos started posting on Instagram “My friends, family, and opera fans”. “I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I will not sing La Traviata at the Arena di Verona this summer as planned.”
Referring to Arina’s decision to use black face makeup in the movie “Aida,” the singer wrote: “Let me be absolutely clear: to use black face under any circumstances, artistic or otherwise, is a very misleading practice based on theatrical lore. It is old and has no place in modern society. It is insulting, insulting and outright racist.”
She wrote that she could not “in good conscience associate myself with an institution that continues this practice”.
The theater statement stated that “Angel Blue intentionally committed herself to singing in the ring” even though Zeffirelli’s 2002 play’s “characteristics” were “known”.
However, the theater stressed the hope that her protest would eventually improve intercultural understanding as well as educate Italian audiences.
“Each country has different roots, and its cultural and social structures have developed along different historical and cultural paths,” the statement from the Arena Foundation of Verona reads. “It was only after years of dialogue and mutual understanding that common convictions were reached.”
Arena’s statement emphasized the dialogue, “in an effort to consciously understand the perspective of others, regarding assumed artistic commitments.”
“Contradiction, judgments, labels and the absence of dialogue only feed the culture of contradictions that we completely reject,” the statement said, calling for cooperation “to avoid divisions.”
This is not the first time that the use of black facial make-up at a theatrical performance of “Aida” in Verona has sparked a protest by the sopranos. In 2019, the opera singer, Tamara Wilson, who is white, protested the blackness of her face to sing the title of Ethiopian Lady of the Opera at the Arena.
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