American soprano quits Italian opera over blackface in Aida

African American Soprano singer Angel Blue quit her job as an upcoming performer in “La Traviata” for the Arena di Verona in Italy. Blue said on Instagram, “Arena di Verona recently made the decision to utilize blackface makeup in a recent production of Aida” and “I cannot in good conscience associate myself with an institution which continues this practice.”

Blue is still currently listed on the Italian opera company’s website as slated to perform this Friday, July 22 in the Giuseppe Verdi penned opera. Her appearance in Italy is emblazoned on the front page of her own website as well, along with a link to buy tickets.

Both “Aida” and “La Traviata” are part of Arena di Verona’s summer opera festival.

According to The New York Times, Blue’s blackface bewilderment was over fellow Soprano  Anna Netrebko’s casting as the star in another Giuseppe Verdi opera, “Aida” in which the titular character is an Ethiopian princess. Netrebko is ethnically a white Russian but has been cast as Aida in the past and has always performed the role in dark makeup.

“Let me be perfectly clear,” Blue said on her Instagram on July 14, “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.”

But Fox News reports that Blue knew of the “Aida” casting almost a full year before issuing her Instagram missive. According to the opera company, Blue “knowingly committed herself to sing at the arena,” even though the “characteristics” of the Aida staging were “well known” when she signed her contract lat year.

In fact, the Arena di Verona Opera Festival positions itself as a “theatrical museum” when it comes to performance. According to Classic FM, the company said of itself, “So as long as we have a historical production, it is very hard to change them because it means changing something that was designed that way. Somehow, the Arena di Verona is a theatrical museum. We don’t have New Productions every year. We want our history to feel like it is living.”

Arena di Verona said they take a “philological approach. We must respect the historical truth” when they addressed the choice of blackface before the Blue incident. Philology deals with the structure, historical development, and relationships of a language or languages.

In a statement, Arena di Verona defended the casting and costume choice for “Aida,” saying “Every country has different roots, and their cultural and social structures developed along different historical and cultural paths,” and “Common convictions have often been reached only after years of dialogue and mutual understanding.”

The opera said they were open to a dialogue with Blue as “Contraposition, judgments, labeling, lack of dialogue, only feed the culture of contrasts, which we totally reject,’ said the statement, appealing for cooperation ‘to avoid divisions.'”

But Blue said, “I was shocked; I just felt really weird in my spirit. I just felt like I couldn’t go and sing and associate myself with this tradition.”

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