Opera Theatre

Opera theatre in blackface row after soprano quits ‘racist’ production

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Her decision to bow out of planned shows at the Arena di Verona comes after Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, who is starring as title character – Aida – at the same venue, shared photos of herself in full costume.

Ms Netrebko, who is white, posted images of herself in dark-toned make-up on her Instagram account last week. Other cast members were also pictured in blackface.

It is understood the singer will continue her performances.

The venue itself has responded to criticism of its continued use of blackface by stating that it stages “historical” versions of 19th-century opera Aida, which are faithful to costume decisions made for a 1913 version, and a 2002 version devised by Italian director Franco Zeffarielli.

In a statement to industry publication Opera Wire, a spokesman for the venue stated:  “Everywhere in the world used to have what you call blackface. 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.”

The theatre has argued that Ms Blue “knowingly committed herself to sing at the Arena” even though she knew in advance the “characteristics” of the planned productions of Aida at the venue.

However, the venue’s statement also said producers do not wish to “offend and disturb anyone’s sensibility”, and has invited Ms Blue to take part in “constructive and concrete dialogue” about the issue of blackface.

The recent controversy is not the first time the Arena has been criticised for its historically faithful productions, and white soprano Tamara Wilson shared her reservations about appearing in blackface when she was cast as Aida in 2019.

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