Soprano Angel Blue promises to soar in Santa Fe

Angel Blue as Mimi in La bohème, her Metropolitan Opera debut

The U.S. Navy may have the Blue Angels, but we’ve got Angel Blue, at least for a night.

The high-flying soprano, who appears with the Santa Fe Opera orchestra on Saturday, Aug. 7, has been a highly regarded soloist in America and abroad for more than a decade. However, public awareness of her soared into the stratosphere when she starred as Bess in The Metropolitan Opera’s new staging of Porgy and Bess, which opened in September 2019. “The sumptuously voiced soprano Angel Blue is radiant, capturing both the pride and fragility of the character,” the New York Times proclaimed, and Bachtrack concurred, saying, “Angel Blue cemented her position as one of the Met’s new stars, singing Bess with big, handsome tone from top to bottom.”

Her talent and her warm spirit, very much apparent in a recent video interview, are both inherited traits. Blue’s father, a preacher, “was a beautiful, kind-hearted person. I looked up to him so much,” she says. “He was also a classically trained vocalist who studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He was always singing or playing opera around the house, especially Leontyne Price, Richard Tucker, and Jussi Björling.” Blue’s grandfather was also a fan, introducing her to an earlier generation of stars including Lily Pons, Emma Tetrazzini, and Enrico Caruso.

While Blue’s opera career began with such lyric soprano roles as Mimì in La Bohème and Micaëla in Carmen, she’s now transitioning towards more dramatic parts. “I did my first Tosca in 2019, and I have role debuts as Aida and Leonora in Il Trovatore coming up,” she says. After Santa Fe, she heads to The Metropolitan Opera for Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Terence Blanchard — the company’s first opera by a black composer. (That’s not a great track record, but it’s one better than Santa Fe’s.)

Reflecting Blue’s changing repertory, the first half of the program here is all Verdi, starting with the sinfonia (overture) from Aida and the celebrated soprano aria from Act I, “Ritorna vincitor.” In it, the Ethiopian princess Aida sings of her conflicting emotions, having fall in love with Radamès, a young warrior from the hostile Egyptian army

(Santa Fe audiences were originally going to see an entire Aida production featuring Blue this summer, but it was deferred due to the pandemic. “It’s definitely coming back,” says David Lomelí, the opera’s new chief artistic officer. “We’re just not certain which season yet.”)

Lucas Meachem, who plays the title character in this summer’s Eugene Onegin, sings Rodrigo’s death scene from Verdi’s Don Carlo. Blue and Meachem team up for the first half finale, “Dite alle giovine,” the poignant duet from La Traviata in which Germont convinces the courtesan Violetta to give up his son Alfredo, for the sake of his family’s honor.

A concert such as this provides a welcome showcase for the opera orchestra and, in this particular case, three apprentice singers: soprano Alaysha Fox, tenor Duke Kim, and tenor Robert Stahley. They all appear in the program’s second half, which begins with a quick dive into the French repertory for two selections from Jules Massenet’s Thaïs, along with “Depuis le jour” for Blue. It’s a languid aria from Gustave Charpentier’s Louise, in which the title character expresses delight over her new lover Julien.

Then it’s four Puccini excerpts to round out the program, which concludes with two from Tosca. Blue sings “Vissi d’arte” and is joined by Stahley for the rapturous Act I love duet between Tosca and the painter Cavaradossi.

Lomelí describes this concert as “a preview of coming attractions. I want to add more Verdi to our upcoming seasons, things that haven’t done here yet, like Un Ballo in Maschera and Il Trovatore. There are so many great young singers who can do this repertory nowadays. There will definitely be more Angel Blue in our future too.”

Angel Blue in Concert takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Santa Fe Opera. Tickets are $52-$254. Tickets to the simulcast in the opera’s lower parking lot are $100 to $125 per car. 505-986-5900, santafeopera.org

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