Skip to comments.British Opera stops using black makeup (PC in UK)
Posted on 11/21/2005 8:13:30 AM PST by FerdieMurphy
LONDON - White opera singers will no longer wear black face paint when playing black characters at the British Royal Opera House.
The practice of putting black makeup on white performers was used in dress rehearsals for Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" ("A Masked Ball"), but the singer portraying the sorceress Ulrica did not use the makeup in Thursday's opening night performance, Royal Opera House spokesman Christopher Millard said.
Novelist Philip Hensher noticed it while attending a dress rehearsal and criticized the practice in The Independent newspaper. The Royal Opera House would not discuss the reason for the timing of its new policy, which was announced within a day of Hensher's article.
The Italian director of the opera, Mario Martone, accepted the decision not to use black make-up on mezzo Stephanie Blythe, Millard said Monday.
"We had tried various means to see if there was a way in which we could resolve the issue of whether a white actor should be 'blacked up' and decided we should cut it," Millard said.
"It doesn't work. It's racially insensitive," he said.
He added that operas calling specifically for black characters "are incredibly rare," though exceptions to the policy are possible.
"Blacking up" was common in the United States for about 100 years, from the first minstrel shows in the 1840s until civil rights activists began criticizing the practice in the 1940s.
In Britain, "The Black and White Minstrel Show," a popular musical variety show featuring blackface actors, was on TV until 1978.
well gee, someone go tell Al Jolson's mammy . . .
Welcome to the 21st century England.
How often do they whiten up black opera singers when they play Italian noblemen, Greek heroines, etc.?
Hey, lighten' up on the whiten' up...
after all, their blacken' is now lacken'...
Find a black opera singer, or use makeup.... how rediculous.
I believe the uncival rights movement has complained that only black singers should get black roles. I don't think there are too many black opera singers, but I could be mistaken. I say, fine, hire blacks for black roles providing it is done on the basis of who has the best voice for the particular role, and if that's a white singer, hire that one. The producer is interested ONLY in getting the best voices for the roles, so the blacks won't lose out if they qualify.
My thoughts also. Don't they have more advanced makeup techniques now, even for stage plays. I'm a Black man. I don't get "offended" by a white actor portraying a powerful black character. It's a play. Use the imagination God gave you.
I can't see why you couldn't IF physical appearence is central to character.
These fools continually keep doing what the majority of society doesn't want: driving a wedge between people.
My mother gew up in Spain and there the kids believe the 3 Kings bring the presents, not Santa Claus. For Christmas parades, the black king was always a white guy in black paint. There were very few black people in Spain at the time.