The diva comes home. SoCal’s own Angel Blue takes center stage in L.A. Opera’s production of Tosca on November 19, her first time singing lead in the house that made her.
“I am so, so, so excited to sing in Los Angeles. When I say ‘home,’ it’s like H-O-M-E!” says the former model and beauty queen.
A graduate of UCLA, Blue was in the inaugural class of L.A. Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program. She has since gone on to a prominent career, making her Met debut in 2017, singing Mimì in La Bohème, and returning there in 2019 to sing Bess in Porgy and Bess, the role that won her a Grammy for Best Opera Recording.
Tosca, about an opera singer in love with a persecuted artist, presents its own set of problems for a soprano, even one of her caliber. Her aria, “Vissi d’arte,” follows an altercation with the evil Baron Scarpia that leaves the singer breathless. It comes in the second act, which includes a rousing six high Cs, a note that is kryptonite for many.
“A high C is always daunting to see on the page because it’s going into the stratosphere of our range,” Blue says. “But it’s the only way to express how she’s feeling.” She sang the role once before in a full production and finds character motivation key to meeting its technical challenges. “When I see a high C, I know there’s something behind it—there’s a reason for it. And when we know those reasons, it makes it easier to sing.”
Family legend has it that when Blue was born, her father, a musician and pastor, took one look and said, “She’s going to be the next Leontyne Price!” At her first concert, an oratorio production of Turandot when she was four, Blue told her dad she wanted to sing opera. “I wanted to be like the lady in the light. And my dad said, ‘You can absolutely be like the lady in the light.’”
So when she became a teenager, she commuted from her home in Apple Valley to Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where she studied piano and voice. The year before she received her master’s from UCLA, L.A. Opera initiated the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program, Blue’s next stop on her way to stardom.
“I’ll be forever indebted to Maestro Domingo for the simple fact that he believed in me and believed in my talent and then helped to get me out there into the industry,” she says of Plácido Domingo, one of history’s leading tenors and the former general director of L.A. Opera. “I met him two months exactly to the date after my father passed away. And the night before my dad died, he was saying things to me like, ‘Angel, when you meet Plácido Domingo, he’s going to love your voice, he’s going to help you.’ He said, ‘Make sure you listen to him. Make sure you learn from him.’”
I am so, so excited to sing in L.A. When I say ‘home,’ it’s like H-O-M-E!
A life under the proscenium has so far taught her two things. First, nothing unites people like music. And second, the divas she met on her way to winning Miss Apple Valley and Miss Hollywood beauty contests are sweethearts compared to opera divas. The least offensive memory she could muster was about the time she requested a photo with an unidentified singer. “She looked at me, looked at the camera, looked back at me, laughed, and then walked away,” Blue says. “The opera diva is the one to look out for.”
Blue made headlines last July when she dropped out of Arena di Verona’s production of La Traviata after learning that a prior production of Aida starred soprano Anna Netrebko in blackface.
“I grew up in Southern California, so I grew up with everybody. I went to school with Armenian kids, and all the kids in my piano class were Asian. So I never understood that there was such a thing as not growing up in diversity. But because of that, I do recognize that it’s incredibly important to see representation; my stepson, he’s a little blond kid with blue eyes, and it’s great for him to turn on the TV and see someone who looks like him. I think all people need to be represented. It’s a positive thing to see yourself, but also to see yourself in someone who doesn’t look like you. It’s not just a person-of-color thing—it’s a people thing.”
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This story is featured in the November 2022 issue of Los Angeles