Following Angel Blue’s high-profile cancelation at the Arena di Verona via social media, the soprano’s Instagram and Facebook pages have disappeared.
Blue had posted a Faithful Friday post on July 15 following her July 14 post where she announced she would cancel her “La Traviata” due to the Arena di Verona’s use of blackface.
The soprano said, “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. 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.”
She added, “It is offensive, humiliating, and outright racist. Full stop. 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.“
Blue found support from many of her colleagues like Golda Schultz, Russell Thomas, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Ryan McKinny, Jamie Barton, J’Nai Bridges, and Lise Davidsen, among others but also had pushback from legendary opera star Grace Bumbry who wrote, “My dear Angel, I read your publication and was thoroughly shocked at your point of view. For all of my 50 years of Opera singing I have always used white face, when necessary, and blackface, when necessary, as well. Of course, my preference is to sing in blackface, but if I am to be perfectly honest, that preference goes against my artistic sense of credibility. My make-up cabinet runs the gamut from Dark Egyptian to Chalk White for Turandot and everything between. If you do your historical studies, as one should, you get a clear picture as to the background of the characters, no matter what the opera. As an artist, you may decide which roles you would prefer, but to limit yourself to only a few roles such as Aida, Selika ( L´Africaine), and Bess, or maybe one or two others which I can not recall at the moment, you are limiting your possibilities. Did you ever have the opportunity to see Sir Laurence Olivier, in the role of Shakespeare’s Othello?”
Bumbry added, “To my knowledge, he was the first white person to perform in Blackface in classical theatre. To be proud of your race is a noble thing, and one which should be honored all the time, but if you made the choice to perform in a medium of Opera you must first know the history and the desire for credibility. I am sorry to have to be so stern with you because you are one of my very favorite young singers, however, it is my job and my responsibility as a black pioneer in this profession, to correct you when you are out of line. I hope that you will take this correction with the love that I write it. I am sorry that you will not be singing the Traviata in Verona, because I heard you sing the role about three years ago, and vocally you were wonderful. Is there no way that you could recall that decision? Your friend always, Grace B.”
Bumbry’s comments went viral with many sharing them on social media including tenor Yusif Eyvazov.
The Arena di Verona has yet to announce a replacement for Blue, who was set to perform on July 22 and 30, 2022.