Peter Gelb Weighs in on Yusif Eyvazov’s Social Media Comments

By Francisco Salazar

Metropolitan Opera General Manager Peter Gelb has spoken out against Yusif Eyvazov’s comments on social media regarding Angel Blue’s cancelation at the Arena di Verona.

Following backlash toward the use of Blackface in a production of “Aida,” Eyvazov took to social media to defend his wife Anna Netrebko and said Blue’s decision was “disgusting” and questioned why she had not withdrawn last month when “Aida” opened on June 18, with a Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska portraying the title role in blackface.

The comments immediately went viral and saw many artists condemn Eyvazov and praise Blue.

Following Eyvazov’s comments, Gelb told the New York Times, “There is no room at the Met for artists who are so meanspirited in their thinking.”

He added, “We’re considering what steps we might take.”

Gelb’s comments about Eyvazov’s social media use come after his silence over Rene Pape’s homophobic rant on Facebook following The Metropolitan Opera’s participation in pride. Pape said he would never return to the Met because it participated in the parade. He later apologized following a statement by the Berlin State Opera. OperaWire reached out to the Metropolitan Opera for comment but never received any reply.

Angel Blue made headlines on July 14 when she decided to cancel her debut in Verona due to the use of Blackface in a production of “Aida.”

In her statement, Blue did not mention Netrebko nor any artist who is performing the production and instead called out the institution for its use of blackface and told the New York Times, “My decision doesn’t have anything to do with them. My decision has to do with my convictions.”

The Arena di Verona has defended its practice telling 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.”

They also released a statement regarding Blue’s cancelation and said, “The agreement between Fondazione Arena and Angel Blue, represented by her management, was reached almost a year ago, as for all other singers committed to the Festival. The 2022 première of ‘Aida’ took place on 18th June. This production’s characteristics were well known when Angel Blue knowingly committed herself to sing at the Arena. Every country has different roots, and their cultural and social structures developed along different historical and cultural paths. Sensibilities and approaches on the same subject might widely vary in different parts of the world.”

The current production that the Arena di Verona is using opened in 2002 and has seen many sopranos use blackface. In 2019, the Arena revived its replica of the 1913 production starring Angela Meade and María José Siri, who also used the dark makeup.

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