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A Voice Like Angel's


By T. L. Stanley

Published Oct 1, 2017 9:00 AM

Angel Blue is reaching new heights in the world of opera, but the singer never forgets her roots.

Photo by Rosemary Fahmie.

A storied opera like Turandot is sophisticated stuff for a child, but Angel Blue M.M. ’08 connected with the dramatic love story the first time she heard it. The Apple Valley, Calif., native not only soaked the production in; she also decided her future career path based on that live performance. And she was only 4 years old.

“I was so struck by it, like there was a fire inside me,” says Blue, recalling the experience of nearly three decades ago. “I had the feeling of sweating in high humidity. I said, ‘I want that to be me.’”

Blue’s announcing her opera aspirations before kindergarten may not have surprised her family, especially her father, a classically trained musician and pastor who infused the household with gospel, jazz, pop and nearly every other musical genre, along withmusical instruments and lessons. Concerts were a regular outing.

“We were all musically inclined, and we sang in church,” Blue says, noting that her repertoire now includes everything from hymns to Mariah Carey and Dolly Parton songs. “It was an amazing foundation.”

Over the past eight years, the soprano — whose voice is often described as “agile” and “smoky” — honed her talent in Europe, singing at such iconic venues as La Scala in Milan, the Vienna State Opera, and the Royal Albert Hall in London. A protégé of Plácido Domingo’s, she keeps even more busy as a television host on the BBC.

But this fall, she’s in New York, making her debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Mimi in La Bohème, a part she’s sung to critical raves dozens of times. These shows will be “a welcome home party,” she says. “I get to come back and sing at the mecca of all opera houses. I hope my American family likes what I’m doing.”

Her vocal coach, UCLA lecturer Cathy Miller, says the Met is the ultimate challenge for an opera singer, with an unmatched “standard of perfection.” But there’s no doubt, she says, that Blue will “put her own stamp on this role.”

“She has such a beautiful voice and a fantastic presence,” says Miller, who keeps posters and photos of Blue in her office to motivate singers-in-training. “She’s like a magnet on stage, which is completely natural. You can’t teach that.”

Blue credits her beauty pageant background with some of that poise. Her mother had suggested the 5-foot-11-inch Blue compete in pageants as a way to fund her education. (Her three older sisters graduated from UCLA, leaving little in the coffers by the time Blue was ready for college.) Along the way, Blue acquired titles like Miss Hollywood and Miss Southern California.

“You learn how to speak in front of people and, of course, stand up there in a swimsuit,” she says. “Nothing’s more intimidating than that.”

Not even the renowned stage at the Met, which spurs more excitement than nerves, can intimidate Blue, whose influences include Maria Callas, Gladys Knight and Whitney Houston. A crossover artist, she switches easily from Verdi’s La Traviata to Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (she’s performed both this year).

“My father used to say I should be able to sing anything,” says Blue of the person who was her earliest inspiration. (He died in 2006.) As if to prove the point, she sang the national anthem at Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s reinauguration in July.

“The jobs are becoming higher profile,” she says, “and I’m trying to stay busy, but I’m open to lots of opportunities. If someone wanted me to sing at a church, I’d do it,” she says. “I’m not an opera snob.”

Editor's Note: To see how her Met performance turned out, visit the New York Classical Review.