(Exclusive) Arena di Verona Responds to Blackface Controversy in ‘Aida’

By Francisco Salazar

Following controversy over the use of Blackface at the Arena di Verona, OperaWire reached out to Arena di Verona for comment on the situation and why it continued to use the maligned practice.

In response, a spokesperson for the company told OperaWire, “The point is that as long as we do a historical Aida in the Arena, it is very difficult for us to change something. We have two ‘Aidas.’ One is a copy of the one that opened the Arena di Verona in 1913 and this is a replica. The second one is the Zeffirelli ‘Aida’ which was made when these sensitive topics were not such an issue. 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. 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.”

The company added, “We decided to have a philological approach and as long as we don’t have a new production, we follow that philological approach. We must respect the historical truth.”

The company also noted, “we follow what was made in 1913 and many decades ago when Zeffirelli staged his first ‘Aida.’ We are following what they decided to do in that era. Our season is like a historical museum of the theatrical taste during the last century.”

In response to the outrage that was caused after Anna Netrebko’s performance on July 8, in which the soprano posted pictures from the production, the Arena said, “The same ‘Aida’ by Zeffirelli opened on June 18 and was performed by [Lyudmila] Monastryska in Blackface. Even she accepted that.”

The company also noted that a new production will be used for the 100th anniversary. The company said, “When we discuss modern things, we have to remember that we are using an old historical production. Next year we will have a new production of ‘Aida.’ We should be judged on next year’s new production. We understand this is a very important topic around the world and we will change accordingly.”

“Aida” runs through September with Monica Conesa, Latonia Moore, and Maria Teresa Leva also set to star.