US soprano Angel Blue drops out of Verona production following Blackface scandal

18 July 2022, 09:41 | Updated: 18 July 2022, 09:44

Angel Blue was programmed to appear at the Arena di Verona this summer
Angel Blue was programmed to appear at the Arena di Verona this summer. Picture: Alamy / Getty Images

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Arena di Verona has released a statement in response to Angel Blue’s cancellation, which came after allegations of Blackface surfaced at the famed Italian venue.

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Grammy Award-winning opera singer, Angel Blue, was due to make her debut at the Arena di Verona in the summer opera festival’s production of Verdi’s La traviata.

Set to play the lead role of Violetta, the American soprano took to social media on 14 July to share that she would no longer be performing at the Italian venue after Blackface accusations cloaked the prestigious festival following photos shared by famed Russian soprano, Anna Netrebko.

In pictures shared on Instagram, Netrebko is seen in dark makeup, worn to portray the Ethiopian princess Aida, from Verdi’s opera of the same name. Netrebko’s actions have been highly criticised by the music world, particularly on social media, however, the Arena recently defended their makeup choices, saying their performance was historical and “made when these sensitive topics were not such an issue”.

Blue posted two black panelled slides on her social media accounts, detailing her decision to pull out of her Arena di Verona debut. The post, which has since been deleted, read, “Dear Friends, Family, and Opera Lovers, I have come to the unfortunate conclusion that I will not be singing La Traviata at Arena di Verona this summer as planned.”

Read more: ‘Everywhere in the world used to have Blackface’ – opera festival defends Anna Netrebko controversy

Anna Netrebko stars in Verdi’s Aida at the Arena di Verona this summer
Anna Netrebko stars in Verdi’s Aida at the Arena di Verona this summer. Picture: Instagram @anna_netrebko_yusi_tiago

The opera star’s social media post continued, “As many of you know, Arena di Verona recently made the decision to utilize blackface makeup in a recent production of Aida.

“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.

“It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist. I was so looking forward to making my house debut at Arena di Verona singing one of my favorite operas, but I cannot in good conscience associate myself with an institution which continues this practice.

“Thank you for your understanding, and to all who have shown support and sensitivity to me and my fellow artists of color.”

The star soprano’s post was met with positive and supportive comments, with followers admiring the singer for “taking a stand”.

Angel Blue at Classic FM Live

In response to Blue’s cancellation, the Arena has since released a statement saying: “Fondazione Arena di Verona’s principal aim has always been to create peace through the spread and development of music and art. Culture creates bridges.”

The company added: “We believe in dialogue, in effort to understand others’ point of view, in respect of consciously assumed artistic obligations. Angel, we and the audience of the Arena di Verona look forward to meeting you: it will be the opportunity for dialoguing in a constructive and concrete way, beginning with your reflections.

“The digital world does not create the same empathy that only direct contact can bring about: just as in Theater. Contraposition, judgments, labelling, lack of dialogue only feed the culture of contrasts, which we totally reject, and we also appeal to everyone to work together to avoid divisions.”

On Arena di Verona’s website, Angel Blue is still listed to play Violet Valéry in the production on 22 and 30 July.