Opera Stars Speak Out on Blackface in Arena di Verona’s ‘Aida’

By Francisco Salazar

(Disclosure: Out of respect for the sensitivity of our audience  we will only link to images of blackface instead of showing them here)

Following a performance of “Aida” at the Arena di Verona on July 8, several opera singers are calling out Anna Netrebko for the use of blackface.

Jamie Barton took to Twitter and said, “It’s been a long day and I’m hella tired, but I’m not too tired to say that BLACKFACE IS, AND ALWAYS WAS DISGUSTINGLY WRONG. (Whyyy is this even a question?? How is this not obvious?!) Anna Netrebko and Arena di Verona, do better. It’s seriously not that hard.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas Phan said, “I don’t why anyone is wasting their energy on a certain soprano in blackface in Italy. She is simply not worth the time nor the brain space, and is clearly desperate for attention. If she hadn’t put on her makeup, I doubt anyone would have noticed she was singing at all.”

Ryan McKinny also called the soprano out stating, “The sluttiest thing a man can do is get blocked by Anna Netrebko.”

Finally, Michael Sumel, “It’s very simple: Blackface is disgusting. I don’t care how famous you are or if you’re the opera company. You can get out of here with your ‘artistic expression.'”

The backlash comes nearly a month after the production opened on June 18, which saw Liudmyla Monastryska performing the title role and also wearing blackface. Several other artists like Simone Piazzola, Sebastian Catana, and Ambrogio Maestri have been seen and posted pictures using blackface during this year’s run as have the ballet dancers who have used the makeup throughout their bodies.

The renewed backlash comes three years after Tamara Wilson called out the Arena di Verona after being forced to wear Blackface in the first performance. The soprano took to her Instagram page which she has since deleted, noting that she would not wear the makeup in the second performance. However, she later noted that she had still worn lighter make up which still darkened her skin. She said, “I won the battle, not the war.”

Since 2019, the production was shown in 2021, which saw Angela Meade, María José Siri, and Maida Hundeling, also use blackface. The production was later broadcast on television starring Meade and Anita Rachvelishvili.

Additionally, the Teatro Comunale di Bologna recently opened a production of Otello in which tenor Gregory Kunde used blackface to portray the title role.

OperaWire has reached out to the Arena di Verona for comment regarding the continued use of the practice.

“Aida” is set to run through September with Monica Conesa, Latonia Moore, and Maria Teresa Leva also set to take on the title role.