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  • Writer's pictureLisa Baldacchino

A conversation I didn't think I would be having in 2020

Updated: Mar 8, 2020


As you can tell from the title, this is not going to be the most positive article however I feel that some things need to be said (even though we are in 2020 and we should be moving forward and not backward)


This week numerous articles came out regarding Teatru Manoel’s Production of Giaochino Rossini’s Otello.


A photo was uploaded where Cliff Zammit Stevens was having makeup put on in which he posted ‘Getting my tan on’ The tenor clearly looked liked he was about 3 to 4 skin tones darker than he actually is.


Teatru Manoel’s Artistic Director Kenneth Zammit Tabona says that the tenor would not be looking any darker than he would if he had got a summer tan. This was said here on Times of Malta.


However, if you look at this photo here, one can tell that there is a difference between a summer tan and blackface.



Mr. Zammit Tabona also went on to say 'Political correctness interfering with literature is completely wrong. We are following the direction of the text. Would you expect me to contradict Shakespeare? Absolutely not,'


However Mr. Zammit Tabona, there is a difference between contradicting literature and blackface... A BIG DIFFERENCE


What is Black Face?

Blackface is when a performer puts on makeup to have their skin look much darker than it actually is.


History of Black Face

The origins of blackface date back to the mid 19th century. White performers would darken their skin, put on ripped clothing and exaggerated their features to look stereotypically black. This started with minstrel shows (this is an American form of entertainment which was developed in the 19th Century. Each show included skits, variety acts, dancing and music performances that mocked people specifically of African descent). The point of these shows was to be funny to white audiences however these were demeaning and hurtful.




Teatru Manoel’s Artistic Director Kenneth Zammit Tabona told the times that there are no dark-skinned tenors in Malta and that ‘he would not have been able to cast a Maltese tenor in the lead role and it would appear ridiculous to present a snow-white Othello to audiences’ He may be right HOWEVER


Numerous times, Teatru Manoel bring down numerous Opera singers from all over the world. An example would be their last Ziguzajg production of Mozart’s The Impresario, they brought in an Italian – American Soprano singer Lisa Algozzini. I am more than certain that there are numerous productions in the past and possibly in the future in which foreigners will be brought down to Malta.


So my question is this. If they have brought down foreigners in the past to play numerous roles in several operas, Why not do the same now? Why cast someone who is evidently shaded lighter.


Is this the example that the National Theater of Malta wants to set?


Culture Minister Jose Herrera believes in providing artists the needed elbow space and freedom of expression and feels he should only intervene at extremism and when the law is broken.' Minister Herrera went on to say “It is a delicate issue, and I wish to reaffirm my position and the whole position of the country, that we are totally against racism,”


Black Face IS NOT Freedom of Expression. Black Face is a form of Racism.




What are your thoughts on this?


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